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Is Health Care a Right or a Privilege?

Is Health Care a Right or a Privilege?

Imagine that it is late at night and you wake up suddenly, struggling to breathe. You realize immediately that your symptoms are severe—this is not a common cold. Unsure of what to do, you call a loved one who insists on driving you to a hospital emergency room. Assume, for the purposes of this example, that you are a U.S. citizen. While you are registering for emergency services, you notice a sign prominently displayed, declaring that you have the right to medical screening and stabilization in the case of emergency or labor, even if you do not have health insurance. This is a provision of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which you explore in more detail in this week’s reading.

You may be surprised to learn that Americans have no legal right to health care, as established through extensive legal precedent. In fact, EMTALA represents the only health care rights guaranteed to Americans.

The United States is one of the only high-income nations that does not guarantee health care as a fundamental right, and it is the only developed nation that has not implemented a system for insuring at least all but the wealthiest segment of its population against healthcare costs. . . . In terms of national constitutions, a 2004 survey reported that some two-thirds of constitutions address health or health care, and that almost all of these do so in universal terms. (Teitelbaum and Wilensky, 2013, p. 108)

However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2013), 15% of the U.S. population was uninsured in the years immediately preceding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Therefore, except in specific situations (such as those regulated by EMTALA), 48 million people did not have access to health care. Furthermore, according to the same report, family income was strongly correlated to a family’s access to health care. Whereas 75.1% of families with an annual income less than $25,000 were insured, 92.1% of families earning $75,000 or more per year were insured.

These figures may trouble you from a social perspective, but remember that there are many stakeholders in public health. A patient’s perspective is but one of the many you must consider as a public health professional. In this Discussion, you explore whether health care is a right or a privilege.

Student Tips for Discussions

Academic discussions provide a forum to share insights with your colleagues as you encounter new content. Discussion supports a discovery learning experience that facilitates a deeper understanding of content from multiple viewpoints. To ensure that your contributions to the Discussion posts and responses are timely, relevant, insightful, and engaging, keep the following in mind as you post:

§  Be sure to review and follow the rubric for Discussion assignments.

§  Engage in the Discussion as early as possible and continue to post throughout the week.

§  Design your posts to elicit multiple points of view from your colleagues.

§  Validate your assertions with references to credible sources.

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