Global Ethics Corner: Health Care in America: Should all Americans have a Right to Affordable Care?

Mar 30, 2012

With the Supreme Court set to make a decision, the Affordable Care Act is a major source of debate in the United States. Do all Americans have the right to affordable health care? Or does the individual mandate, which requires that all Americans buy insurance, go too far?

It happens every day: An American gets sick, but can't afford proper care.

Even though the U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation, more than 16 percent of U.S. residents are uninsured. And when the uninsured get sick, they have three options: go without treatment, enter into enormous debt, or pass the costs of their care onto those who are insured through higher insurance premiums and higher taxes.

That's why President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The president has called it the crowning achievement of his administration. Others call it Obamacare.

From the moment of the law's inception, critics have demanded its repeal. Twenty-six states have filed a class action lawsuit against it. This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing their case. The majority of the justices appear to be siding with the law's critics—meaning that some or even all of the Affordable Care Act could be overturned.

At the heart of controversy lies the right of the individual. The law currently requires that every American buy health insurance by 2014. Those who don't will be fined. Supporters of the law argue that this individual mandate is needed to keep costs down while ensuring that all Americans can get covered-regardless of pre-existing health conditions.

Critics, by contrast, complain that the individual mandate represents government overreach. They say Congress has no business setting demands on individuals who don't want insurance.

Ultimately, the health care debate is about basic American rights. Do all Americans have a right to affordable health care? Do they also have a right not to buy that care? If these rights are incompatible, what matters more to you: the right to affordable health care or the right not to have the government dictate that care?

By Marlene Spoerri

Photo Credits in order of Appearance:
SGT Debra Richardson/U.S. Army
Gonzalo de Cárdenas
Pete Souza/The White House
Jonathan Hinkle
Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Medill DC
Barack Obama
Fibonacci Blue
Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane/U.S. Navy
george ruiz

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