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Is healthcare a right or a commodity?


Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.  

DENVER — Do you consider healthcare a right or a commodity?

Denver7 took that 360 question to the streets of Denver to ask, and surprisingly — well not really — we found healthcare is polarizing.

"If you have a job and they deduct from your check, they owe you healthcare," explained one woman who did not want to be identified for this story. 

"I think that healthcare is probably a right, and needs to be provided by the government," said another person who also asked to remain anonymous. 

"Healthcare is a privilege," was another view. 

"I've worked hard for my money and for my healthcare," another woman said.

Not providing basic healthcare costs us all

But is healthcare really a right that belongs in the constitution? Up there with freedom of speech, the right to bear arms?

"I think access to healthcare is a basic human right," said Democratic Senator and Doctor Irene Aguilar.

Sen. Aguilar is a supporter of universal healthcare. In her view, she believes we can't afford not to provide basic healthcare for everyone.

"We have an illness that literally could be treated for as little as a penny a day that we don't treat until it becomes an illness in which you're needing to hospitalize people," she said.

Aguilar points to the fact that emergency room care in the United States is a right, even if you can't afford it, which ends up costing people with insurance more money for their medical care.

"They put it onto other people's insurance bills and that's why insurance costs don't reflect the real cost of taking care of an illness," said Aguilar.

Healthcare is a necessity, not a right

"I can't help but laugh when I hear people say 'it's a human right'," said Jon Caldara, president of the Independent Institute. "When I hear, healthcare is a right, what I hear is, 'healthcare will no longer have choices, we will provide it as a government commodity and you can wait in line.'"

Caldara believes healthcare is absolutely a necessity, but medical care is a service and a good provided by a third party. In other words, no matter how much you need bread, you don't have the right to steal someone's wallet or hold up a bakery to get it.

"It's a necessity that people have just like food, just like shelter, just like clothing, but none of those things are a right," he said.

Caldara views the solution as a true free market healthcare system. One that kicks insurance companies to the curb, in favor of real dollars and cents.

"Give the people their money. Let them make their healthcare decisions. When they do and shop around, the market will work," she said.

If Canada and German can figure it out? Why can't the U.S.?

Other viewpoints point to other highly developed countries, like Canada and Germany, that have successfully figured out how to provide some form of universal healthcare. Why, they asked, can't the U.S. do the same?

Joe Hanel, with the non-partisan Colorado Health Institute, said the reality is the healthcare people get overseas is far different than what Americans have come to expect. Think hospitals without private rooms, no fancy check in lobby, or flat screen TV's for your viewing pleasure while you wait for the doctor to come in.

"Americans would walk into that hospital and say, 'what a dump!' and Czechs would walk into an American hospital and go, 'what a waste!' so it's just a cultural question," Hanel said.

Hanel added the bigger question America has to ask itself before even considering a universal healthcare future, is where's the limit?

"Do you want to provide any health-related service that anybody demands and if so, who's going to pay for that?" he said.

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