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September 30, 2013

Is Healthcare A Right?


On October 1, the healthcare exchanges in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, up to the general public for enrollment. The imminent implementation of the program has reignited the debate over whether the act is a government overreach, or whether it doesn’t go far enough. At the heart of the issue is the question of whether Americans believe that healthcare is a right or a privilege.

As a part of a larger debate over healthcare, NewsHour Extra asked high school students Megan and Sam to write about whether they thought healthcare was a human right or not. In addition, students from around the country wrote in with their opinions on the topic to the Do Now social media conversation hosted by KQED, the PBS affiliate in San Francisco. Some of their responses are included at the bottom.

Healthcare is not in the Constitution

By Megan Gallagher

The provision of health care is not mentioned in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Our Founding Fathers rightfully focused on life, liberty and justice.

Health care is a service for Americans and it is something that most Americans need. The basic question is really, “should the Government be in the position of saying that all Americans must sign up for some type of health care coverage?” And, if that premise is accepted, should government be in the business of then providing every citizen with coverage, whether they want it or not?”

Megan, T.C. Williams High School

Megan, T.C. Williams High School

Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems. Their view on healthcare is no different. We have come to a time in our country where the American public is becoming far too reliant on the government to take care of more than their basic needs such as food, housing, and healthcare. This mantra of “let the government take care of me” is not what this country stands for and not the direction it needs to be heading in. It breeds a culture of dependency. In the news for the past year, President Obama has been persistently pursuing legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” which will bring drastic changes to the existing healthcare system, hospitals, and many private practices around the nation.

The government already provides healthcare for the poor and the elderly through large and costly programs such as Medicaid and Medicare and this is paid for by taxpayers. If the government were to mandate universal healthcare coverage, the additional cost to the taxpayers will be huge and a drag on the economy, even though those taxpayers are not receiving any benefits from it.

Statistics show that 83.7 percent of all Americans have healthcare. This shows that although there are certainly segments of the population without coverage, the vast majority do have healthcare coverage. With statistics such as these, it shows that many people, for generations have afforded their own healthcare by their own means, not because it was a right, but because it is a privilege of where we live to be able to take care of one’s self by our own means.

Megan Gallagher attended T.C. Williams High School and wrote for the school newspaper, Theogony.

Healthcare is a human right

By Sam Hanoura

The effect that time has had on our still fairly young country is quite amazing. As the world has slowly progressed over the past few centuries, the United States has been playing catch-up with the already established nations while at the same time barreling through the industrial and technological revolutions. This of course means that along the way it can be expected that things can change in importance and relevance. For example, in the time of the founding fathers and powdered wigs, healthcare was comprised of apothecary prescriptions, amputations, and death. In the 21st century however, it can provide a longer and fuller life.

Sam, T.C. Williams High School

Sam, T.C. Williams High School

Now, when the founding fathers were drafting the constitution, the idea of someone two hundred years later not being able to pay for their chemo treatments most likely did not cross their minds. Regardless, it doesn’t matter who said or wrote what when; healthcare is a human right. The fact that this is even a discussion in policy making is absurd, further identifying lawmakers’ detachment from their sick and dying constituents.

The opposition to healthcare is more or less condemning the lower economic classes to a life of illness, campaigning to stretch the unruly rat race of the free market to the lives of millions of uninsured Americans. In comparison, free market health insurance today is slower, but just as lethal as the market for fire insurance in post-colonial America, where if someone did not have fire insurance on their home they were regarded as less of a priority. The concept is laughable now, but by what moral compass in today’s world is it right to unflinchingly run to the rescue of someone in a burning home and then deny that same person savior from an internal threat?

Those who oppose the Affordable Care Act make the argument that a majority of Americans are already covered by medical insurance. To that it must be noted that the keyword in said act is “affordable.” The American people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, worrying about groceries, bills, and car payments. For better or for worse, that is capitalism, and as a country, the United States has stayed true to its ideals. Nevertheless, the competition of the game of life should never have to be a game of life and death.

Sam Hanoura attended T.C. Williams High School and wrote for the school newspaper, Theogony.


Throughout the week, students have been tweeting in their answers to this week’s Do Now conversation, answering the question, “Is health care a basic human right?” Here is a collection of their answers.









Do Now is a weekly social media conversation hosted by San Francisco PBS affiliate KQED. Check their page every Friday for the latest topic, then join in!

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