Is Equal Access to Health Care a Right?

Responding to yesterday’s post, Trutherator wrote:

On insurance companies covering everything, that’s one of the choices an insurance consumer has at the moment of purchase. But once you concede your own freedom to set up the guys with guns (government) to decide how much of YOUR money to take for their health care provision, especially a government that has shown themselves so astronomically inept that federal cabinet-level departments have had repeated cases of moneys missing to the tune of even $12 billion for the Dept of Education.

My response to Trutherator follows.

When you say you “concede your own freedom” in a single-payer system, what exactly do you mean? What freedom are you talking about? I’m guessing you want to imply freedom to choose good care over bad care, right? But implicit in that notion is freedom to choose bad care over good, freedom to get suckered by smooth-talking salesmen and baiters and switchers. That’s the flip side of the coin, isn’t it? But it’s the same coin. Single-payer systems are not perfect, but, unlike completely free markets, at least they give every person in the system equal access to the same quality of care.

If health care is a right–that is, if everyone who is injured or ill has the same right to be treated with the potential to be cured, without regard to cost of treatment–then it’s difficult to make the case that the free market is better able to meet that social need than single-payer.

Given that you, like Ron Paul, are a big believer in private and religious charity for the indigent, you probably agree with that, and you probably want to argue,  then, that health care must not be a right, or maybe even that it should not be one. But that question should be on the table in front of everyone in this debate whenever we talk about health care in America. Is it a right or not? Do we want it to be a right or not? Do we have responsibility to each other’s health and well-being or not? Where do we draw the lines and why are we drawing them where we draw them?

I want to make a case against charity (especially religious charity) for the poor, or at least against its being the exclusive or even main source of revenue for welfare for the poor. I understand the notion that religious institutions or other local charities can “understand” local cases better than governments (excepting local governments) can.  I don’t necessarily agree, but I understand it. But the main point I want to make is that I think societies have an interest in maintaining the welfare of their members–of all of their members–and I question the ability of a patchwork of charities, whose revenue streams are as dependent on the health of the economy as any person’s,  to be able to do that without leaving large holes for individuals to fall through.

It’s the same problem I have with Paul’s argument at the debate the other night. Depending on private networks to pay for individual cases may work for some well-connected individuals. But should we tolerate a system that discriminates against people because they’re not well-connected? Isn’t overcoming class distinctions like that what the American Revolution was, at least in part, about? Jefferson and Paine thought so.

This is the level of debate we should have been having about health care all along. It should have been the substance of the debate in 2009 and 2010 instead of oxymoronic talk about keeping the government’s hands off of Medicare.

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2 thoughts on “Is Equal Access to Health Care a Right?

  1. Pingback: Tragic Farce

  2. Pingback: Ron Paul’s Principle of Personal Responsibility | Tragic Farce

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