Check Your (Healthcare) Privilege, Miss USA! | Incident Report 036 | ZDoggMD.com
Is Healthcare a Right? Miss USA vs. Miss Washington
Rheumatoid arthritis advocate Miss Washington rebuts Miss USA's comment.
By Michael Dolan
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Before she was awarded the title of Miss USA in May 2019, Kara McCullough of the District of Columbia set off a social media firestorm when discussing the topic of healthcare.
Is Healthcare a Right or a Privilege?
When asked during the pageant if healthcare is a right or a privilege, the 25-year-old scientist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission replied, “I’m definitely going to say it is a privilege. As a government employee, I am granted healthcare and I see firsthand that to have healthcare, you need to have jobs.” (McCullough later clarified her comments, telling Good Morning America, "I am privileged to have healthcare and I do believe that it should be a right, and I hope and pray moving forward that healthcare is a right for all worldwide.”)
Backlash from the Controversial Comment
One voice added a poignant note to the Twitter-storm of disagreement: contestant Alex Carlson-Helo, Miss Washington, who has referred to herself as an “RA warrior.” Only two years ago, Carlson-Helo was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk because of the excruciating pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease of the joints. When we caught up with Carlson-Helo after the pageant, she was very clear on her opinion.
A Call for Protection for People With Pre-existing Conditions
“To me, healthcare is definitely a right and not a privilege,” she says. “Whether you have a pre-existing condition or you are perfectly healthy, everyone has a right to healthcare. The Affordable Care Act has allowed me to get the medication I need to manage my RA. It’s a scary thought that I could be labeled with a pre-existing condition and lose my coverage if it is repealed. Just because I have a disease, it doesn’t mean my health should be brushed off as less important than someone else’s. One of the medications I take costs over ,000 a year. I would never be able to afford that. I don’t know what would happen if I couldn’t take my medication. I would probably be bedridden. It’s extremely concerning.”
Advocating for RA Awareness — and Healthcare for All
Carlson-Helo has used her newfound celebrity to become an advocate for those struggling with chronic invisible illnesses. “I want people to know that every day is a battle for me to wake up and get ready for the day. I wanted younger people to know that they are not alone.”
Like many Americans with disabilities, Carlson-Helo has begun to take public action to support patient rights.
Inspiring Others Living With Invisible Illness
After the joyful experience of walking across the stage at the Miss USA pageant in high heels — just two years after being confined to a wheelchair — Carlson-Helo was approached by a young girl from the audience. “I just wanted you to know that I suffer from arthritis, too. Thank you for speaking out for us,” the girl told Carlson-Helo. “When I heard that, it made the night even more special,” Carlson-Helo says.
Video: New Miss USA responds to health care backlash
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