Is Healthcare a Right or a Privilege?

It seems as if there is a new twist to the ongoing story of healthcare reform every day. One of the drivers of reform is whether access to healthcare is a right or a privilege. Here’s how I distinguish a right from a privilege. A right is an entitlement. A privilege is earned.

According to the Declaration of Independence, we are endowed with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are enabled and supported by other rights such as access to public education, police and fire protection and the Bill of Rights. I submit that access to healthcare is also a right and should be included in this list.

Here’s why I believe this. When we retired in 2010 our only option to obtain healthcare was through the open market. I ended up submitting applications to three insurance providers who all denied me because of a pre-existing condition. I appealed each decision and was denied. One thing that really irritated me is that my condition was and is being treated successfully (which I can verify). Cost wasn’t an issue. I expected to have to pay more and was willing to do so. After a life time of paying taxes, being a good citizen and helping others I felt at the very least that I had earned the privilege of purchasing health insurance. But the insurance companies and government disagreed. They callously denied me that privilege.

I remember feeling betrayed and angry. I was gravely concerned that everything that we had worked for – our finances and retirement dreams – could come crashing down if I suffered a catastrophic illness (i.e. very expensive). It amazed me that seemingly overnight we had gone from being an asset to a liability. I felt that we had lost control of our lives.

Eventually insurance companies changed their position on pre-existing conditions in preparation for implementation of the ACA. I was finally approved and rated up 300%. I didn’t care. We were thrilled and relieved that I was finally insured. We had our lives back.

Being denied healthcare and living with uncertainty is a big reason why I view access to healthcare as a right and not a privilege.  My right to pursue happiness and to live my dream was denied because the government and insurance companies view access to healthcare as a privilege. I believe that everyone should have access to healthcare so they can live their lives and pursue their dreams.

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11 Responses

  1. Rosemary says:

    Completely in agreement. How can governments not make some attempt to facilitate access to health care? It seems inhumane that some are denied access completely.

  2. Dave says:

    Agree Ted – The government spends billions on subsidizing various industries and special interests. What is more important than subsidizing the health of its people?

    • tedcarr654 says:

      Hi Dave, I agree. I believe that we will reap many benefits if our collective health is improved in part by providing everyone with to access good healthcare. Some of the benefits I envision are greater productivity (fewer sick days) and lower overall healthcare spending (preventative vs reactive). Thanks!

  3. Bob says:

    I agree that access to healthcare should be viewed as a right. But if you put it in the same category as police and fire protection that we all pay for via taxes then should it not be available to all simply because they pay taxes?
    Firemen will fight a fire regardless of the cost of the home. Police will investigate crime regardless of the wealth of the victim.
    So let’s then charge every person an “affordable” health tax adjusted by income for the same access to healthcare.

    We currently do not really seem to be arguing about access we are arguing about “affordable” access.

    • tedcarr654 says:

      Thanks Bob! I appreciate your point of view. I’m going to think a bit about your idea about an affordable health tax. When it comes to Medicare, do you think the taxes we pay are an example of your point?

  4. Dot Morris says:

    Hi Ted, agree completely. Just received notice from Anthem Blue Cross that my Bronze level EPO plan will increase 51% for 2018. They no longer provide PPO – and the ‘network’ effective for my EPO plan does not extend beyond Calif. So in addition to very high premiums for what is essentially catastrophic coverage, if we are travelling out of state we are uninsured. Ridiculous! Going to an insurance broker to see what can be done, if anything. The current private insurance market is a complete financial horror story. Universal health care seems to me to be about the only way to level the playing field – and with every solution there are problems too – but what we have is not working. I am looking forward to being old enough for Medicare – what a sad statement!

    • tedcarr654 says:

      Hi Dot, I agree – what a mess! Have lost confidence that “free” markets can somehow produce the best solution. I have come around to the conclusion that Medicare for all may be the best and fairest option.

  5. Nikki T says:

    Hi Ted! I just found your blog and podcast. I completely love the work you are doing! I agree with you 100% that healthcare should be a right. We retired early and travel the world. In so many countries across the globe, healthcare is a right. Talking to other English-speaking travelers (Australians, British, Canadians…), I have started to realize the USA is the odd man out on the issue of healthcare. People from other countries have asked us if we have insurance to repatriate us in the event of a medical emergency. I don’t have to tell them “no,” I only have to say “We are US citizens,” and they nod sagely. Hopefully, this will someday change.

    • tedcarr654 says:

      Hi Nikki, great to hear from you! Thanks for your post. I wonder whether capitalism is compatible with healthcare. There may be too many conflicts of interest and ethical clashes. Unfortunately I have little hope that our dysfunctional political system can come up with a solution.

  6. Ken Hudson says:

    I too, retired in 2010, after many decades with the usual fights with insurance companies that really are the controllers of health care in the U.S. Very fortunately for me, I married a Canadian about that time and moved to Canada(after the usual long process of being admitted into Canada as a Permanent Resident). I can NOT begin to tell you the extraordinary difference it is, to have Universal Health Care here. As an American I feel I was brainwashed in the U.S. claiming they have the best health care. NOT TRUE! As I am getting older, I have more and more need for health services and when a crisis arrives(and it has), it is just between me and my doctors to worry about getting better, with NO worries as to how much it will cost, can I afford it, or will the Insurance company cover it, or god forbid, will I be bankrupt from it. Just show your card to the doctors or hospitals, and everything is taken care of. Never see a bill. What a relief compared to what I had to deal with, in the U.S. for so many years.

    For me, I could never return now permanently, unless the U.S. somehow get medicare for all or something similar to the one here. I would never want to face the uncertainties that one has to cope with financially, like they have now, in the U.S., again.

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