The Right to Healthcare in the United States


The United States government has a moral obligation to provide universal health care to all citizens. However, there are no laws that require the government to offer universal health care. This makes it hard for the Americans to claim for their moral right. Instead, to accord all the Americans quality health care, the country requires everyone to have a compulsory health insurance. The challenge arises where some of the citizens cannot afford to pay for the insurance premiums (Chen 15-16). On the other hand, some employers look for insurance companies that charge low premiums as a way to avoid paying high insurance premiums for their employees.

This makes it hard for the Americans to access same health care services. Those capable of paying high insurance premiums have access to quality health care while the rest access poor health care services. Being the country’s cultural moral obligation, all the Americans have the right to access health care. People share different views concerning the right to health care in the United States (Chen 17). Some claim that according the citizens the right to health care would affect quality of health care services. This paper will discuss why the Americans deserve the right to health care.

Historical background

For many years, American presidents have tried to introduce policies, which would offer universal health care. However, every time a president tries to introduce such policies, they face immense opposition from different quarters. In 1940s, doctors led an anti-reform movement that shot down the attempt to introduce universal health care in the United States (Daniels and Sabin 34). The same happened in 1990s, but this time it was small businesses and insurance companies that opposed the intention to introduce universal health care policies.

Today, this trend has changed with the majority of the parties that were once opposed to introduction of universal health care rallying behind those supporting its introduction. Nevertheless, the government faces a challenge in guaranteeing the public; especially those already insured that the intended changes will not affect their current state.

On the other hand, in spite of the Democrats and the Republicans agreeing to work together to formulate policies that will make universal health care a reality in the United States, any disagreement between the two would lead to stalemate. There are allegations that the intended changes will benefit the uninsured only. Such allegations lead to the agents of change excluding some crucial policies due to fear of opposition from the insured majority.

There are no doubts “major change in health insurance markets is likely to ripple through the entire system” (Daniels and Sabin 36). Consequently, the agents of change ought to alert the public about the changes that are likely to arise due to the introduction of universal health care system to avoid future opposition. Promising the public that nothing will change poses a potential backlash, which might derail the process.

Support for universal health care

The current demand that every American should have health insurance is unfair to the majority of the low income earning population. Many low income earning families can hardly cater for their basic insurance. Eisenberg et al. allege “The United States has already been driven by the inability of people of modest means to buy insurance to institute Medicaid” (247). Furthermore, to reduce cost of insurance, the public requires rallying behind the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act of 2009, which prohibits insurers from “using any individual genetic predispositions towards illness to deny coverage or charge higher premiums” (Franklin and Budenholzer 1723).

Today, insurance agencies take advantage of the demand for every American to have a medical insurance to impose high insurance premiums on citizens. Insurance companies continue to violate laws that prohibit them from exploiting patients. Since it is hard to curb such exploitation, the American government ought to come up with a universal health care system that will accord all citizens equal rights to health care services. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens from exploitation by ravenous insurance companies.

The Prelude of the United States’ Constitution alleges that the constitution intends to support the universal wellbeing of the Americans. Today, all the United States’ citizens have the right to quality education. Education and health care are some of the elements that promote the universal wellbeing of the citizens (McGlynn et al. 2635-2641). Consequently, a country cannot claim to promote the general welfare of its people without according them proper health care. Therefore, All Americans have a right to quality health care services in line with the constitution. America cannot purport to support the universal wellbeing of its citizens while many people do not have access to health care, which is a critical component of their wellbeing.

Menzel and Light assert, “Health care is a basic human right and not a privilege” (38). The United States government is obliged to award the citizens equal opportunity to partake in economic, political, and social affairs of the country. It can only achieve this by ensuring that all Americans have access to health care services. All citizens have the right to access health care to ensure that they compete and collaborate in all aspects of social life.

If the United States has to continue enjoying a strong economic growth, it has to nurture a healthy population. Today, majority of potential entrepreneurs are afraid to invest because they “fear losing the health insurance provided at their existing job” (Newton et al. 1917). Hence, many people opt to remain in their jobs to avoid incurring health care expenses. The American government has a duty to guarantee all citizens of their freedom and happy life.

The government should note that people cannot be free if they are in poor health. Besides, they cannot be free while they are forced to stick to their miserable employments in order to maintain their health insurance. The government needs to provide universal health care services to the Americans in line with the constitutional spirit of promoting universal wellbeing of the Americans.

Case evidence

Nikki White’s tragic death demonstrates the need for making health care a human right in the United States. Nikki was suffering from, “systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic inflammatory disease that was diagnosed when she was 21 and gradually left her too sick to work” (Kristof 5). Nikki made an effort to seek medical attention from numerous hospitals in the United States. However, no insurance company was ready to receive her due to the nature of the disease.

She took many days writing to individuals that she considered they might assist but was not successful. Kristof alleges, “Nikki collapsed at her home in Tennessee and she was rushed to a hospital emergency room, which was to treat her without payment until her condition stabilizes” (5). The hospital made all the effort to save Nikki’s life since it no longer expected to receive money from her. However, it was too late to save the lady. Nikki White would not have died were all citizens entitled to health care. The lady died due to poor health care system in the country. This is just one of the evidences, which confirm that the Americans ought to have a right to health care.

Against universal health care

Individuals opposed to declaring health care a human right purport that such an endeavor would have negative effects on quality and efficiency of service delivery in the health sector. They claim that declaring healthcare a human right would lead to many patients having to queue for a long time as they wait to be served. In countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, which offer universal health care services, patients wait for a long time to be treated (Olshansky et al. 1138-1142). Declaring health care a human right in the United States would deprive patients suffering from chronic diseases apposite medical attention. In a way, this would violate their right to medical attention that the declaration would be attempting to uphold.

Making health care a human right in the United States would encourage “moral hazard”. Moral hazard refers to a situation where people engage in risky activities because they are sure of health care in case of an accident. Moreover, declaring health care a human right would amplify the demand for health care services, thus affecting the quality of the services (Olshansky et al.1143). Workload of health care professionals would increase making it hard for them to offer quality services.

Pragmatically, declaring health care a human right in the United States would encourage unwarranted free riding by many citizens. Woolhandler, Campbell and Himmelstein assert, “It will be difficult for hospitals to confine the care they provide to the emergency room. …patients who are not kept on for further acute care outside the emergency room will likely just show up again” (769).

Hence, despite coming up with universal health care services, the government would have to demand that every citizen pays a certain amount of money to cater for the unanticipated emergencies. Declaring health care a human right would lead to many people refraining from purchasing health insurance. Hence, the burden of catering for medical expenses that such people incur would be shifted to those that are insured. To avoid such cases, the government would have to come up with modalities that require each person to part with a certain amount of money to help in catering for medical emergencies.


The United States has tried to come up with policies to help in establishing a universal health care system. Proponents of universal health care allege that the move is in line with the country’s constitution. In addition, they allege that the endeavor would save the masses from exploitation by the insurance companies. American citizens have the right to access health care to ensure that they compete and collaborate in all aspects of social life.

On the other hand, opponents of universal health care purport that the endeavor would affect the quality and efficiency of service delivery in health facilities. Others claim that the move would encourage “moral hazard” in the country. Therefore, the country would have to incur extra expenses to cater for individuals who engage in risky activities. One fails to understand how universal health care would encourage moral hazard. Individuals cannot subject their lives to danger merely because they will access medical care.

Works Cited

Chen, Pauline. “A Tool to Strengthen the Doctor-Patient Relationship.” Hastings Center Report 39.6 (2009): 15–17. Print.

Daniels, Norman and J. Sabin. Setting Limits Fairly: Can We Learn to Share Medical Resources? New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Eisenberg, David, Ronald Kessler, Cindy Foster, Frances Norlock, David Calkins and Thomas Delbanco. “Unconventional medicine in the United States: prevalence, costs, and patterns of use.” The New England Journal of Medicine 328.4 (2000): 245-252. Print.

Franklin, Gary and Brian Budenholzer. “Implementing Evidence-Based Health Policy in Washington State.” New England Journal of Medicine 361.18 (2009): 1722–1725. Print.

Kristof, Nicholas. “The body count at home.” The New York Times. 2009: 5. Print.

McGlynn, Elizabeth, Steven Asch, John Adams, Joan Keesy, Jennifer Hicks, Alison DeCristofaro and Eve Kerr. “The quality of health care delivered to adults in the United States.” The New England Journal of Medicine 348.1 (2003): 2635-2645. Print.

Menzel, Paul and Donald Light. “A Conservative Case for Universal Access to Health Care.” Hastings Center Report 36.4 (2006): 36–45. Print.

Newton, Manya, Carla Keirns, Rebecca Cunningham, Rodney Hayward and Rachel Stanley. “Uninsured Adults Presenting to U.S. Emergency Departments: Assumptions vs. Data.” JAMA 300.16 (2008): 1914–1924. Print.

Olshansky, Jay, Douglas Passaro, Ronald Hershow, Jennifer Layden, Bruce Carnes, Jacob Brody, Leonard Hayflick, Robert Butler, David Allison and David Ludwig. “A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century.” The New England Journal of Medicine 352.1 (2005): 1138-1145. Print.

Woolhandler, Steffie, Terry Campbell and David Himmelstein. “Costs of health care administration in the United States and Canada.” The New England Journal of Medicine 349.1 (2003): 768-775. Print.

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