Editorial

Health Care May Not Be a Right, But it’s Necessary

May 26, 2017

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

Last week, during the Q&A portion of the Miss America pageant, contestant Kara McCullough from Washington, D.C., responded to her question by stating she believes that health care is a privilege, not a right, for Americans, adding fuel to a debate that, too often, pits the rich against the poor in this country. McCullough, who echoed similar statements by Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress, went on to win the crown.

It’s always easier for those with adequate resources to say that certain things are not rights, but, instead, are privileges. Having a safe home to live in. Not worrying about your next meal. Good schools and a path to college.

They argue that those “privileges” in life were earned through hard work and perseverance, and not things given to them by government handouts.

It may be true that a certain level of security above basic life needs may be a privilege, but without access to health care, gaining those other successes in life may not be possible for millions in the U.S.

Health is the basis for all the other things in life; work, school, family. Sick people miss work, miss school, and can’t provide for themselves and their families.
But, today, millions of our neighbors still can’t afford adequate health care as they struggle everyday just to put food on the table.

The political fight eight years ago to pass the Affordable Care Act put this issue on full display. Democrats argued that too many hard-working families go without coverage, and Republicans argued against government intervention in the marketplace.

What became known as Obamacare ended up being a fight more about words than substance: debate over employer mandates, subsidies, and premiums replaced debates over coverage, preexisting conditions, and affordability.

This year, with the election of Donald Trump and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the first order of business was the attempted repeal of Obamacare. After eight years of opposing that word, Republicans in the House rushed to pass a repeal bill that is estimated to kick more than 23 million people off health insurance.

The Republicans’ crusade was about dismantling a system that had, for the first time in modern American history, attempted to increase the percentage of people that have access to doctors for preventive health care, reproductive services, and mental health coverage, but, to Republicans’ dislike, was paid for by taxing the rich.

Uninsured people too often don’t see a doctor until it’s so serious that they usually end up in the emergency room, the most expensive of all medical care. They simply can’t afford to see a doctor for minor issues that could have prevented more serious illnesses that will require more costly treatment.

And when these uninsured patients end up in the emergency room and can’t afford to pay, hospitals absorb the expenses, and eventually, pass those costs on the rest of us in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Many states have required auto insurance for years so that no one drives without proper coverage. Why? So uninsured drivers don’t cost insured drivers more in pass-through costs. No one thinks this is unconstitutional or over-burdensome government regulation in desperate need of repeal.

The same should happen for health insurance. Obamacare wasn’t free; it required all to either apply for available programs like Medicare or MediCal, buy instance, or pay a fine. Opponents, unfortunately, reframed the debate as universal health care, and that, for some reason, seemed like a bad thing.

Health care may not be a right like those enshrined in the Constitution, but neither are Social Security, unemployment insurance, schools. Instead, these are systems put into place by the government to provide a basis for a sustainable workforce, a growing economy, and prosperous nation.

Without adequate health care for all Americans, regardless of income, we cannot expect to have a healthy, educated workforce to continue growing our economy and helping to ensure a higher standard of living for our children.

And without that, we will all ultimately pay a higher price down the road.

We shouldn’t be afraid of universal health care coverage. It’s in our best collective interest to make sure we’re all healthy, not just the wealthy.

Voters should contact their representatives that voted for the Affordable Care Act repeal to urge them to reconsider their position, and then hold them accountable at the next election.

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