Right to Health Care
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Should All Americans Have the Right (Be Entitled) to Health Care?
Right to Health Care
46.3 million people in the US were uninsured in 2008 according to the US Census Bureau. In 2007, health care expenditures totaled $2.2 trillion - 16.2% of the US economy. Health care is the largest industry in the US, employing more than 14 million people.

Proponents of the right to health care argue that it would stop medical bankruptcies, improve public health, and reduce overall health care spending. They say that no one in the richest nation on earth should go without health care. A June 12-16, 2009 poll shows that 64% of Americans say health care should be a right.

Opponents argue that using tax revenue to provide health care to all Americans amounts to socialism and would decrease the quality and availability of health care for those who work hard to get medical coverage. They say it is not the government's responsibility to guarantee health coverage. Read more...

Did You Know?
Pro & Con Arguments
Top Pro & Con Quotes
Background
Video Gallery
Comments


Right to Healthcare ProCon.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit website that presents facts, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not healthcare should be a right.
Did You Know?
  1. 46.3 million people in the United States (15.4% of the US population) did not have health insurance in 2008. [7]

  2. The US is estimated to have the highest prostate and breast cancer survival rates in the world. [6]

  3. 62.1% of all US bankruptcies in 2007 were related to medical expenses. Approximately 78% of medical bankruptcies were filed by people who had health insurance. [3]

  4. Out of the 193 member states of the World Health Organization, the United States ranked #1 in per capita health care expenditures ($6,719). [8]

  5. The United States is one of the few, if not the only, developed nations in the world that does not guarantee health coverage for its citizens. [1]
Share your thoughts on right to health care and read, vote on, and reply to existing comments. Join the debate.

Pro & Con Arguments: "Should All Americans Have the Right (Be Entitled) to Health Care?"
PRO Right to Health Care
  1. All Americans should have a right to health care because the Declaration of Independence states that all men have the unalienable right to "Life," which entails having the health care needed to preserve life.

  2. Health care is a right for all Americans because the Preamble of the US Constitution states its purpose is to "promote the general welfare" of the people. Just as all Americans have the right to an education, they should have the right to health care because they both "promote the general welfare."

  3. Health care is a human right. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one's family, including... medical care."

  4. All Americans should have the right to health care as do citizens of other nations. The United States is one of the few, if not the only, developed nation in the world that does not guarantee health coverage for its citizens. [1]

  5. Ensuring that all Americans have the right to health care will decrease health care costs by allowing people to receive regular and preventive medical care and not wait until they are chronically ill to seek treatment when medical costs are much higher.

  6. Providing all citizens the right to health care is good for economic productivity. When people have access to health care, they live healthier and longer lives, thus allowing them to contribute to society for a longer time. The cost of bad health and shorter life spans of Americans suffering from uninsurance amounts to $65-130 billion annually. [2]

  7. Lacking health care can lead people to suffer from anxiety, depression, sickness, and stress, and other symptoms that affect not only individuals, but families and communities of that individual as well.

  8. Health care costs are unaffordable and bankrupting Americans. In 2007, 62.1% of all US bankruptcies were related to medical expenses and 78% of these bankruptcies were filed by people who had medical insurance. [3][4]

  9. Guaranteeing the right to health care will encourage entrepreneurship, which is good for job creation. Currently people are afraid to start their own business for fear of losing the health insurance provided at their existing job.

  10. Health care should be a right because it will promote equal opportunity by decreasing the number of people who are economically disadvantaged in society due to bad health and medically-related financial trouble.

  11. Health care services are crucial to the functioning of a community, just like trash and water services, and should therefore be guaranteed like these services are to all Americans.

  12. The right to health care should be considered a civil right. People should not be discriminated against for being sick. Americans who are ill should not have to make the choice between financial ruin or paying for the medical treatments they need to stay alive.

  13. Coverage of all Americans would best counter or contain the spreading of epidemics such as the H1N1 flu (swine flu) or smallpox.
CON Right to Health Care
  1. Health care should not be a right because it is inconsistent with the Declaration of Independence, which guarantees the right to "pursue" happiness, not the right to happiness or free medical services.

  2. Health care should not be considered a right because the Preamble of the US Constitution states that its purpose is to "promote" the general welfare, not to provide it.

  3. Health care should not be considered a right because it is not listed in the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. The Bill of Rights lists people's rights that the government cannot infringe upon, not services or material goods that the government must ensure for the people.

  4. It is the individual's responsibility, not that of the government's, to ensure personal health. Diseases and health problems, such as obesity, cancer, stroke, and diabetes can often be prevented by individuals choosing to live healthier lifestyles.

  5. No one should be entitled to health care because it is a service and a material good that a person must pay for to obtain.

  6. Guaranteeing everyone health care will lead to longer wait-times for patients to receive diagnoses and treatment of illnesses, as is the case in Canada and the UK, potentially denying patients with chronic diseases timely medical care. [5]

  7. Providing a right to health care is socialism and is bad for economic productivity. Socialized medicine is comparable to food stamps, housing subsidies, and welfare--all of which is charity. Distributing charity to society makes people lazy, decreases the incentive for people to strive for excellence, and inhibits productivity.

  8. A right to health care is unadministratable because it is too ambiguous what kind of treatment and services should be guaranteed.

  9. Guaranteeing health care as a right will lead to an increase in demand for health care that will decrease the quality of care because health care professionals will be overstretched.

  10. History has shown that granting health care as a right would lead to greater government deficits. Every time the government intervenes in health care, such as with Medicare and Medicaid, there is a greater redistribution of wealth and greater government spending.

  11. If health care is considered a right, then government bureaucrats will be making health, life, and death decisions that should be up to the patient and doctor to decide.

  12. Allowing health care coverage to be driven by the free market without government intervention increases competition and the incentive for providing higher quality medical technology and service.

  13. Providing health care to everyone is a huge expense and may result in tax increases thereby futher harming the economy and individual pocketbooks.

  14. Guaranteeing health care for all Americans will lead to a problem known as "moral hazard," meaning that people will take riskier actions because they know that if they get hurt, they are guaranteed health care coverage.
Background: "Should All Americans Have the Right (Be Entitled) to Health Care?"
Anti-health care reform protesters at Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, NC.
(Click to enlarge image)
Anti-health care reform protesters at Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, NC.
Source: "No to Changes: People Opposed to Obama's Proposed Health-Care Reform Protest Outside Hanes Mall," www.journalnow.com, Aug. 4, 2009

46.3 million people in the US were uninsured in 2008 according to the US Census Bureau. [7] In 2007, health care expenditures totaled $2.2 trillion - 16.2% of the US economy. Health care is the largest industry in the US, employing more than 14 million people.

Proponents of the right to health care argue that it would stop medical bankruptcies, improve public health, and reduce overall health care spending. They say that no one in the richest nation on earth should go without health care. A June 12-16, 2009 poll shows that 64% of Americans say health care should be a right. [9]

Opponents argue that using tax revenue to provide health care to all Americans amounts to socialism and would decrease the quality and availability of health care for those who work hard to get medical coverage. They say it is not the government's responsibility to guarantee health coverage.

Proponents argue that the lack of guaranteed health care for all Americans has resulted in Americans having relatively poor health compared to other developed nations. Of a group of 27 comparable high-income democracies (members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the United States tied with Hungary and Slovakia as having the highest infant mortality rate and ranked 23rd in life expectancy at birth in 2007. [19] The United States is one of the few if not the only developed nation in the world that does not guarantee universal health coverage for its citizens. [1Out of the 193 member states of the World Health Organization, the United States ranked #1 in per capita health care expenditures ($6,719), [8]  #31 in life expectancy (78 year average lifespan), and #152 in infant mortality rate (6 deaths per 1,000 infants). [19]

Political cartoon on health care reform in the United States.
(Click to enlarge image)
Political cartoon on health care reform in the US.
Source: Tom Toles, "Slowing Down Healthcare Reform," Washington Post, available on www.fogcityjournal.com, Aug. 7, 2009
Opponents argue that guaranteeing all Americans health care will decrease the quality and availability of health care in the United States. The US is estimated to have the highest prostate and breast cancer survival rates in the world. [6] According to the 2004 Institute of Medicine (IOM) publication "Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations," the US health care system is the "most responsive" in the world to nonhealth aspects of care, including patient confidentiality, consumer preference, short wait time for elective procedures, and it also ranks high in medical technology availability.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) marchers supporting health care as a human right.
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Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) marchers supporting health care as a human right.
Source: "Twenty-Seven Arrested at NYC Protest (including 8 from PNHP) Hundreds March for Single Payer Universal Health Care," www.pnhp.org, Mar. 29, 2007
Both proponents and opponents of the debate appeal to documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as evidence supporting whether or not all Americans should have the right to health care.

A Sep. 2009 US Census Bureau report found that 46.3 million people in the United States (15.4% of the US population) [7] did not have health insurance in 2008. Some groups contend that this figure is inaccurate or misleading because it may include undocumented immigrants, the methodology may be flawed, many people eligible for insurance enrollment may have explicitly chosen not to enroll, or people enrolled in Medicare may have said they have no insurance because they have no private insurance. In 1944 the US Supreme Court ruled in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters (322 U.S. 533) [10] that insurance companies were part of interstate commerce, thus subject to federal regulation and anti-trust laws. Overriding the Supreme Court's ruling, Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act [11] in 1945 that has since protected insurance firms from federal prosecution for price fixing, bid rigging and carving out protected markets.

Temporary free heath clinic by Remote Area Medical at the LA Forum in Inglewood, CA
(Click to enlarge image)
A temporary free heath clinic set up for eight days by Remote Area Medical at the LA Forum in Inglewood, CA treating per day approx. 1,500 patients, some of which waited 36 hours outside to seek medical care.
Source: "The Brutal Truth about America's Health Care," Independent (UK), Aug. 15, 2009
The cost of health care has become increasingly unaffordable for many working families. 62.1% of all US bankruptcies in 2007 were related to medical expenses and 78% of these bankruptcies were filed by people who had medical insurance. [3] While the majority of uninsured people were from low-income households, 38.3% of the uninsured had an annual household income of at least $50,000. Since 2000, health insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages.

Health care reform to provide universal coverage was first proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" in 1938, [12] then again by President Harry S. Truman's "Fair Deal" in 1945, by President Richard Nixon in 1971, and more recently by President Bill Clinton's administration in 1993. [13] Each attempt faced staunch opposition from varying interest groups and did not result in the passage of universal health coverage legislation.

US President Barack Obama addresses the White House Forum on Health Reform.
(Click to enlarge image)
US President Barack Obama addresses the White House Forum on Health Reform.
Source: "White House Forum on Health Reform," www.whitehouse.gov, Mar. 5, 2009
During the second presidential debate on Oct. 7, 2008, [14] US President Barack Obama, then a presidential candidate, said health care should be a "right for every American." In his June 15, 2009 speech [15] delivered to the American Medical Association (AMA), President Obama stated, "Make no mistake: The cost of our health care is a threat to our economy. It is an escalating burden on our families and businesses. It is a ticking time-bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America." He urged Congress to craft legislation that would ensure coverage for all Americans. On Mar. 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [16] that, among other things, increased health care coverage to include 32 million previously uninsured Americans. Under the new law, 95% of Americans will be insured, according to the White House website's "Putting Americans in Control of Their Health Care" page (accessed Mar. 29, 2010).

A June 12-16, 2009 poll shows that 64% of Americans say health care should be a right. [9Another survey shows 57% of Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance. [17] An Aug. 2009 poll showed that 86% of Americans say they think health insurance should be available to all Americans, [18] although 64% opposed raising taxes to increase access to health care.

Video Gallery (click to enlarge)

US Representative Ron Paul, MD, (R-TX) explains why he believes there is no "right" to health care, while debating the single payer system with other doctors.
Source: "Health Care in America," Larry King Live, CNN, available on www.ronpaul.com, Aug. 11, 2009
US President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on health care reform.
Source: "Remarks by the President to a Joint Session of Congress on Health Care," www.whitehouse.gov, Sep. 9, 2009
US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) hearing on Health Care Reform.
Source: "Hearings and Executive Sessions: Health Care Reform," www.help.senate.gov, June 11, 2009
Hans Rosling demonstrates the evolution of world wide health care on the BBC show Talking Points Memo.
Source: "Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats," www.youtube.com, Nov. 26, 2010


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