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Summary/Suggested Headline: Health care should be an entitlement - even to the unhealthy

In Sharon Roberts' 7/20/09 letter to the editor, she suggests that people like herself, who exercise and eat primarily organic foods, should not have to subsidize the health care of the obese or others who don't practice the same level of healthful living as she and her husband do.

Once we change America's mindset to recognize that we are the only developed country on the planet that does not guarantee access to health care to every citizen, and decide we are wrong, her argument becomes invalid.

I wonder if Ms. Roberts has two fire extinguishers in her home and a combination smoke/fire detector in every room of her house, as is recommended by the fire department. If she doesn't, then by her argument we should deny her access to the services of her local fire department. Does her home have an alarm system which is used all the time, deadbolts on every door, and illumination all the way around her house at night? If not, by her argument, she should be denied police protection.

But of course, denying her police or fire protection would be wrong. Because every citizen is (or should be) entitled to police protection, fire department services, clean air and water, primary and secondary education, and (I argue) health care - simply because they are American citizens.

It's possible every other developed country recognizes that investing in access to health care for all citizens pays dividends further down the line in healthier adults and senior citizens - and correspondingly lower costs to provide health care throughout life. Or, maybe, every other developed country just understands that they can and should give every citizen the right to see a doctor when sick, without worrying about the cost or access. That's EVERY citizen, not just the employed, not just children, not just those with a perfect medical history, and not just the healthy.

We don't deny police or fire protection to people who fail to set their alarms or don't have smoke detectors - so why would we deny medical coverage to those whose don't follow the same recommendations for healthy living that Ms. Roberts follows? Yes, that means people who "grab another bag of potato chips and a cola" (to quote Ms. Roberts) and, yes, even those who smoke should have access to the same level of health care Ms. Roberts apparently has. This may be an aggravation to Ms. Roberts, but no more than my aggravation when the police are sent to investigate a burglary at Ms. Roberts' house that could have been prevented if she had installed and used an alarm system. Simply put, every American should have access to police protection and health care - regardless of their lifestyles.

Of course any health care system should obviously continue to invest in the prevention of unhealthful activities, such as smoking or being overweight. All the other developed countries do spend a portion of their annual budget on health education programs.

In America, driving a car is a privilege, and those who break the rules should be denied licenses or pay higher insurance rates. In America, living in an expensive home is a privilege, and everyone should refuse to subsidize those who don't have the money to afford it. But in America, access to health care should not be a privilege - it should be a right. And I, for one, am willing to put my wallet where my mouth is and pay more taxes if that's what it takes to provide this basic human right to every American citizen.

Here is the original letter to the editor on which I was commenting:

July 20, 2009

Don't penalize the health-conscious

It is well-known that approximately one-third of the U.S. population is obese. Daily diets consist of oozing-with-grease double cheeseburgers with bacon, large salted fries and supersized colas loaded with sugar.

I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and weigh 130 pounds. My husband is 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 160 pounds. We do cardio and weights at the gym three times a week. We grow most of our own food, all organic, and buy organic when available instead of the chemical-laden foods so prevalent in the grocery stores. Our drinks of choice are water and tea. We are pre-Baby Boomers.

Why should Americans who strive to stay away from doctor's offices and hospitals with our lifestyle choices and commitments be forced to pay for health care for those Americans who voluntarily choose to eat unhealthy food and whose primary form of exercise is getting off the sofa to grab another bag of potato chips and a cola or beer?

I question taxpaying Americans being severely penalized by the Obama administration for the unhealthy choices of others. Personal responsibility is the word that comes into play here. 

- Sharon Roberts, Phoenix


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