July 22, 2009
One Step Closer to Losing Your Right to Health Care
Isn't the point of the Democrats' push to reform the health care system based on establishing health care as a right? That's what the politicians say of course. But in reality the result will be the exact opposite.
Part of the problem is that most Americans don't understand what a right is. A right is not a guarantee that the government (i.e., other people) will provide you something for free. We have the right to engage in religious expression, but that doesn't mean that the government pays for the construction of the church. We have the right to peacefully assemble, but the government doesn't promise to supply your transportation. You have the right to keep and bear arms, but don't expect the government to provide you with a free firearm and bullets. You have the right to free speech, but the government won't grant you free radio or TV air time.
What makes something a right is not whether the government can force somebody else to pay for it. What defines something as a right is whether the government can or cannot prohibit you from doing it. (President Obama notoriously called these "negative liberties".) If the government can't stop you from doing it, then it's a right.
We have a right to religious expression because the government is prohibited from suppressing that expression. We have the right to assemble because the government must allow us to do so. We can speak freely because the government cannot censor us. Nor can the government take away law-abiding citizens' firearms.
The House of Representatives' health care bill would give the federal government control over what kind of health care you will have access to. Private alternatives to the government plan will become economically unviable, leaving the government plan as a de facto monopoly.
Because the Democrats are promising universal health care, demand for health care will skyrocket. Because they also promise to control costs, doctors will leave the system and seek more profitable lines of work elsewhere. The result of increased demand and decreased supply means one thing: rationing.
In order to distribute scarcer and scarcer health care resources to larger numbers of patients, the government will have to determine who to treat and who to turn away. By adopting any such rationing scheme, the government is implicitly assuming the power to prohibit people from receiving health care. Some people will have to wait and suffer for months to be treated. Others, based on what the government determines according to cost and other factors such as how old you are, will be denied certain medical procedures out right. This prohibition -- whether temporary or permanent -- is a de-facto infringement on the individual right to health care.
Some may argue that current private insurance plans ration access to health care as well. Yet this is nothing more than justifying bad behavior by pointing out other bad behavior. The American health care system certainly needs to be reformed. This isn't the way to do it.