Ilovebenefits’s Blog

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Is Health Care a Right

Editor’s note: An interesting piece from Jonah Goldberg of the National Review. He explores the basis upon which the Obama administration puts forth the need to overhaul the health care system. Their belief that health care is a right.


Historically, the American people are keen on any proposal that expands freedom and are skeptical about anything that constricts it. Generally, this means that advocates for every new program or policy — from welfare to gay marriage — try their darnedest to frame their case in terms of extending choice and freedom.

The interesting thing is that it seems Americans have discovered that talk of health care as a “right” doesn’t mean expanding their own freedom. It means, at best, expanding the options of others at the expense of the middle class and, naturally, “the rich.”

Polling by the centrist think tank Third Way finds that the pivotal question for Americans is, “What’s in it for me?” And it seems President Obama hasn’t answered that to their satisfaction. Sixty percent of Americans think Obama’s health care plan will help someone other than them.

Many liberals frequently confuse widespread support for “reform” with support for massive new government involvement in health care. But when concrete proposals come down the pike, the issue changes from hypothetical support for fixing the problem to, again, “What’s in it for me?”

Let us for a moment adopt the proposition that health care is in fact a “right,” as pretty much every liberal politician has told us for at least a generation.

Now let us consider how President Obama’s proposed health-care bill would work. Under his plan, an official body — staffed with government doctors, actuaries, economists, and other experts — will determine which health-care treatments, procedures, and remedies are cost-effective and which are not. Then it will decide which ones will get paid for and which won’t. Would a 70-year-old woman be able to get a hip replacement, or would that not be considered a wise allocation of resources? Would a 50-year-old man not be permitted an expensive test his doctor wants if the rules say the cheaper, less-thorough one is sufficient? The Democrats call this “cost-controls.” But for the patient and the doctor, it’s plain old rationing.

Now, imagine if the government had a body of experts charged with figuring out what your free-speech rights are, or your right to assemble, or worship. Mr. Jones, you can say X and Y, but not Z. Ms. Smith, you can freely assemble with Aleutians, Freemasons, and carpenters, but you may not meet in public with anyone from Cleveland or of Albanian descent. Mrs. Wilson, you may pray to Vishnu and Crom, but never to Allah or Buddha, and when you do pray, you cannot do so for longer than 20 minutes at a time, unless it is one of several designated holidays. Please see Extended Prayer Form 10–22B.

This of course would be ludicrous. Which of course is the point.

Health care cannot be a right, because rights cannot come from government. At best, they can be protected by government. The founders understood this, which is why our Bill of Rights is really a list of restrictions on the government in Washington. “Congress shall make no law . . . ” is how the First Amendment begins.


July 25, 2009 - Posted by | Federal Government, healthcare | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Goldberg correctly points out that originally our enumerated rights were protections from government.

    Now as new rights are demanded they seem to fall into two categories. Those requiring government to supply a benefit to some or all people. And those urging that govenments force, or at least impede, others from expressing diagreement with our wants.

    A right health care is, of course, in the benefit catagory.

    People don’t agree on what a right is, and it has never been completely clear at any time. We hear of human rights, God given rights, inalienable rights. The UN has about a thousand enumerated. Our Constitution has the famous Bill Of Rights.

    I think the EU has a right of Human Dignity. Perhaps if you get drunk and pass out in a gutter you can sue the beer maker because sleeping in a gutter was undignified. (your legal adviser may differ)

    Not knowing what “right” even means sort of snarls up analyzes and discussions about vetting medical care to be an official “right.”

    Off topic. A little.

    I have heard the ObamaCare bill(s) are now to be referred to as “insurance reform” whenever possible. (I couldn’t confirmed that).

    The labeling change may or may not happen in the media over the next few days.

    Later it will probably become the insurance quality bill. And then the National HomeFolks Security Act. I would call it ” The Insurance Assurance Act” myself.

    I really think the best strategy for the Dems would be to introduce many bills, some focused on changes in medical insurance laws, some on drug companies, some on medical labs, some on medical schools, some on hospitals, etc.

    Some bills would get through. And they could keep trying on what didn’t.

    IOW they could nibble private insurance and medical independence to death. Dice and digest.

    I hope the whole mess results in more voters really thinking about issues and what sort of country they want.

    The curtain is high enough now that there is no mystery about what we will get from the Democrats.

    Sadly, there is much mystery about what the GOP would change after recovering power; IMO they don’t know themselves.

    Comment by K | July 26, 2009 | Reply

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