Health Care Is a Basic Human Right

The first time I had the thought that health care should be a basic human right – instead of a privilege for the select few who had the money to afford it – was right after I graduated from college. I had just moved back home, and I had a busy summer ahead of me taking my mom to the doctor. Her eyesight was deteriorating, with cataracts clouding her vision. Years of not going to the doctor led to years of untreated diabetes, which led to my mom, at 50 years old, needing to have cataract surgery.
“Your mom is on the younger side of usual cataract surgery patients,” the doctor told me. “You’ll have to make sure she gets her diabetes under control.”
As I translated from English to Korean what the doctor was saying to my mom, my voice broke and I started crying. I remember seeing my mom on the examination table, her head lowered to hide her crying too. The doctor was silent for a moment and reassured us that we were taking the right steps to get my mom’s health under control.
But why did it have to come to that?
Throughout middle school and high school, my sister, my mom, and I didn’t have health insurance. My mom was taking care of us on her own – and the little alimony she was getting couldn’t cover all our daily expenses, much less any major health care costs. This constant worrying about money made my mom understandably afraid of going to the doctor – because she may not be able to afford it. And that fear made her ignore years of diabetes symptoms.
My mom now has health coverage through the Affordable Care Act – but with Senate Republican leadership ramming their repeal bill forward, we fear again that she might lose coverage because of her pre-existing conditions.
Anyone who thinks that health care is a privilege and not a right has not been personally impacted by the lack of access to affordable health care. They haven’t had to choose between going to the doctor and putting food on the table. They haven’t had the heart dropping feeling of seeing a medical bill and having no idea how to pay for it. They haven’t had to see their loved one stay sick because they can’t afford medication after their insurance company denied them coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
A health care system that creates hurdles to access and does little to protect women, seniors, children, and people struggling to make ends meet is designed to stoke fear – the same fear my mom had. This kind of health care system is designed to keep us down, sick, and more likely to die or go into debt – while the wealthiest thrive. That is what Trumpcare, as outlined by the bill the House of Representatives passed, does. And this is what the Senate’s version of the bill will do too.
That’s why I’m calling my Senators to stop the ACA repeal bill – for my mom and the millions of people who depend on affordable health coverage to live their lives fully and with dignity.