Healthcare as a Right, and Human Rights

The following post is an attempt to explain why healthcare is a right, not a privilege. The question of whether healthcare is a right or a privilege is a controversial topic and a point of discussion in modern American society. Healthcare services are vital for every human being as they help to maintain physical and mental health, treat diseases, and prevent disability or premature death. The World Health Organization (WHO) determines health as a combination of physical, mental, and social welfare (Fowler, 2015). The features mentioned above are relevant for all people regardless of their gender, age, social status, or ethnicity, so healthcare is a universal human right (Gerisch, 2018). The definition of a right and a privilege might help to distinguish between the concepts and understand the place of healthcare in the area of human rights. A right might be viewed as an inherent entitlement available to every person, while a privilege is a permission or advantage given to certain individuals or groups of people.

Human rights do not depend on race, religion, or nationality and ensure well-being and dignity for all people. The United Nations described several fundamental human rights, to which every human being has a moral and legal entitlement, and indicated the problem of correlative duty (Fowler, 2015). The concept means that if health is a right that an individual has, then there is a duty or obligation imposed on another person or group. For instance, to provide the right for accessible healthcare in the U.S., the policymakers behind the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had to identify the sources of funding, such as government spending cuts and taxpayers. Health disparities also demonstrate that healthcare is a right because a privilege stands for a limited or exclusive entitlement for healthcare services creating barriers to a healthy nation. The introduction of the ACA removed the barriers to quality care by providing insurance risk protection and expanding coverage for patients with preexisting conditions (Glied et al., 2020). Therefore, the introduction of the ACA was a significant step towards the transformation of the American healthcare system towards the approach of healthcare as a right, instead of the long-standing position of privilege.

The American Nurses Association supports the idea that healthcare is a fundamental human right, not a privilege. The ANA claims that every nation should guarantee basic healthcare for its citizens as a human right (Fowler, 2015). While the ACA did not provide free healthcare, it promoted affordable healthcare insurance options via cost-effective strategies involving Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Programme (TPC, 2020). Moreover, the policy supported the position of healthcare as a right by improving health equity through anti-discrimination initiatives that positively affected safety and quality of care. It allowed vulnerable LGBTQ patients, ethnic minorities, and underserved populations to enjoy the benefits of affordable healthcare, including screening options and preventive care. Additionally, uninsured Americans can rely on government-funded safety-net hospitals that provide free healthcare services to all patients who cannot afford treatment. Thus, the requirement of basic healthcare set by the ANA is met in the U.S. with the help of safety-net providers, which offers evidence that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Overall, healthcare is a right that should be respected by policymakers and the government since poor access to healthcare or health disparities undermine the well-being of the nation.


Fowler, M. D. M. (2015). Guide to the code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements: Development, interpretation, and application (2nd ed.). American Nurses Association.

Gerisch, M. (2018). Health care as a human right. Human Rights Magazine, 43(3). Web.

Glied, S. A., Collins, S. R., & Lin, S. Did the ACA lower Americans’ financial barriers to health care? Health Affairs, 39(3), 379–386. Web.

TPC (2020). How much does the federal government spend on health care? Tax Policy Center. Web.