Monday, March 12, 2012

Do We Really Want a Right to Health Care? | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty

Do We Really Want a Right to Health Care? | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty

Just because something is a right doesn’t mean in practice it can’t be restricted. The “right” to K-12 education doesn’t include home tutoring or guarantees of tasty lunch choices in the cafeteria. Even if health care is viewed as a right, it may not include the coverage you hope to have.

Rights Don’t Guarantee Access

The Supreme Court clarified, in the 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller case, that the right to have a gun to protect your own home is an individual right. The Supreme Court was interpreting the Second Amendment, but the amendment had been operative for over 200 years. A right doesn’t guarantee easy access.  

The bottom line: Expensive medical therapies are typically available in the United States years before they are available in countries with universal health care. Politicizing health care by making it a “right” simply pushes health care decisions into the political process, routinely leading to delays.

The Right to iPods?

People don’t have a right to iPods. They just have iPods. People who want them buy them. They were once expensive, but have come down dramatically in price in a remarkably short time; now much better units–more memory, more functions, smaller–cost less than half what the original units did. Some claim health care is special, that similar price drops can’t happen there. But when the market is allowed to work–in Lasik eye surgery or cosmetic surgery or when patients with health savings accounts shop around–similar price drops are seen. It’s only when third parties, like the government or large, highly regulated insurance companies, pay for health care that prices go up every year.
Is health care a right? Do we even want it to be a right? People fight about rights. Abortion has been recognized as a right since the 1973 Roe decision, but most Americans want restrictions on that right and many want it taken away. That is a risk of making things rights; rights can be modified, restricted, curtailed, or eliminated, depending on the political climate. Do we want people to be fearful that their right to liver transplants–or hair transplants–might also be someday taken away? Do we really want people feeling they must man picket lines on a regular basis to protect their “right to health care”?

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