Cablayan LNHA, MHA

Healthcare Systems

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Is Health Care a Right or a Privilege?

August 19, 2014Erwin Cablayan0 Comments

Health Care - Right or Privilege - Erwin Cablayan

The fundamental belief underlying the implementation of Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare is that everyone is entitled to quality health care.

The implementation of this program begs the age old questions of whether access to care is a basic human right or a privilege reserved for some or most. The basis of all questions about affordable care extend to our government and address its control of the general public by issuing mandated penalties and fines for non-compliance so as to entitle everyone to our healthcare system.

It would be difficult as health care professionals to say from an ethics perspective that the sick and dying should be denied care because of their socioeconomic status. While I support the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) part of the COBRA legislation of 1986, presented to prevent the discriminatory practice of some hospitals transferring, discharging, or refusing to treat indigent patients coming to the emergency department, the issues here are to what extent health care is a basic human right and to what extent access to care should be restricted.

An opinion that health care is a basic human right means that a sustainable system must be put in place to ensure some extent of equity of care, but the word “sustainable” here is key. When individual plan premiums for those without employer or government health insurance programs have gone up by an average 49% (Forbes), among other increases, it’s important to question how well our new system provides access to those who need it, and with our exploding national debt, we need to question how long our government can sustain such a program.

Armstrong Williams’ sentiments are that “we should reserve our right to purchase healthcare on the free market, allowing opportunities for those to purchase at affordable rates, not by allowing healthcare controlled by bureaucrats.” Others, such as Congressman John Dingell from Michigan, support health care for all Americans and assert it is an issue of both humanitarian and economic importance. But as Thomas J. Papdimos points out in Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, “Once healthcare access is a right difficulties will invariably ensue… There are no clear answers.”