For the better part of a decade, the healthcare debate has been at the center of American political discourse—thanks largely to the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In both the 2012 and 2016 presidential races, the debate on whether to repeal or expand the ACA was a major component of each candidate’s platform—leading to some highly publicized conversations about the best way to ensure coverage for Americans.
At least that’s how it looked on the surface.
On its face, this entire debate appeared to be about mechanics and methodology. What is the best way to run the system? What should and shouldn’t be regulated?
But if you strip it down to the underlying ideologies underpinning the approaches, you’ll discover that the debate is less about the how and more about the what.
What is healthcare in the first place?
Is it a right—something to which all people are entitled regardless of income, job status, age, or health?
Or is it a consumer good—a service that’s meant to be bought and sold on the market?
Approached from an entirely secular, political perspective, this is, admittedly, a complex question worthy of debate. However, for any Catholic, the answer should be a pretty simple.
Healthcare is a right. It absolutely is. And that’s not my opinion, but the position of the Church:
Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance. – The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2288
All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born. The Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable. — USCCB
It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege. — Pope Francis
This really shouldn’t be a controversial position for us. Healthcare is a right because we are committed to the right to life. And we cannot, in good conscience, promote and defend the right to life only to turn our backs on those who are without the necessary resources to actually exercise it. If we do, then we are hypocrites.
This does not mean that all Catholics must support an entirely government-run or single payer healthcare system. That’s not the position that the Church takes.
Instead, it means that we should adopt the mindset that healthcare is something owed, not earned. It is something to which all of us are entitled, simply because we are living, breathing children of God.
There are no exceptions here. Cost, labor, and time may be challenges, but they are not insurmountable, nor are they excuses for inaction. As Catholics, we have a Christian duty to support and promote healthcare as a right and do whatever we can, in our own capacity, to ensure all can take advantage of it.
Matthew Tyson is a Catholic writer and marketing strategist from Alabama. He is an advocate for pro-life ideology on the Left and a co-founder of The New Pro-Life Movement.