Medicaid: Is it a Privilege or a Right?

Contrary to many nations, the United States of America does not provide universal health care. Healthcare is extremely expensive and citizens often invest in insurance policies to cover costs. However, patients are often still left in the dust when the hospital or doctor’s office bill is delivered to their mailbox. Even those with lengthy insurance coverages oftentimes find themselves boggle eyed when the itemized bill comes after their wife delivers a baby in the maternity ward. As a result, in recent years, adopting a universal health care system in the USA has become a hot topic in daily politics. Currently, the closest idea is the country’s national Medicaid program that provides free healthcare to citizens that live in family households and do not exceed the financial threshold required to qualify.

Is Medicaid a privilege or right?

Is the U.S. Constitution Applicable to Universal Healthcare?

When determining if an action is legal on a federal scale, we refer back to the mighty old US Constitution written in 1787 when our nation was founded. After a thorough analysis of the original document, we can’t help but notice that there is no mention of healthcare or anything even remotely related to the subject. We then proceed to study the ratified amendments tagged onto the original document in response to historical events. We continue to search and search until aha, yes! There it is! The fourteenth amendment’s equal protection clause is often used to argue in favor of universal healthcare. The clause explicitly states “nor shall any state…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, by applying this clause, some argue that a lack of universal health care adversely impacts certain racial groups more than others. Advocates of this perspective claim that equal access to adequate and affordable health care for all US citizens does not exist. However, throughout history when the Supreme Court has ruled on cases involving the fourteenth amendment, the judges have generally adopted the view that this clause does not apply to private sectors. In this case, health care would be considered a private corporation and not strictly subject to the equal protection clause.

Medicaid: Is it a Privilege or a Right?

In the USA, the closest solution to universal healthcare is the Medicaid system. Presently, over 72.5 million Americans who are pregnant, obtain Social Security benefits, are disabled, or low income, receive Medicaid benefits. Medicaid qualification is based on Modified Gross Income, or MAGI. Income is accordingly determined using the same rules as the IRS with some minor variations. MAGI eligibility groups include adults 19-24 years old who are not eligible for Medicare, children 1-18 years old, and pregnant individuals. Non–MAGI groups include individuals over 65 who are not parents or caretakers and individuals who are blind or disabled. In order to be eligible for Medicaid, you must also be a United States citizen and meet the household size and income requirements. It is important to note that even if your income is typically considered too high for Medicaid, you may be eligible based on your disability status. 

The fact is, the Constitution does not explicitly state or make any reference to healthcare as a necessity for all. However, when applying the fourteenth amendment, an argument for equal access can be made. On a basic level, we can probably all agree that everyone deserves to go to a doctor without worrying about a monstrous bill they will see a few weeks later. Pregnant women should be able to go to their ultrasound appointments stress free and give birth without viewing it as a financial burden. Patients in need of emergency surgery shouldn’t have to choose between life and death because of affordability. However, the disagreement begins when deciding how to fund Medicaid and giving thought to a future universal health care system. According to a 2023 gallup poll, 88% of Democrats believe healthcare is the federal government’s responsibility, while only 28% of Republicans agree with the sentiment. 

Americans who are inclined to identify healthcare as a right are willing to pay heavy taxes to fund a federal run health care system. Accordingly, there is a positive correlation between Americans who view it as a privilege and are against paying significantly higher taxes to fund a federal run health care system. 

How Can We Help?

Regardless of whether you view our Constitution with a narrow or broad viewpoint and if you believe Medicaid is a privilege or a right, we can all agree that a visit to the doctor should be stress free. If you or a loved one have difficulties accessing affordable healthcare due to personal circumstances or low income, then you may be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid planning attorney Inna Fershteyn has over 20 years of experience helping clients successfully apply for Medicaid. To see if you fulfill the eligibility requirements for Medicaid, please contact Medicaid planning attorney Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-1233 for all important inquiries. Inna is at your disposal and will do everything in her legal power to help your case.