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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