by AAPS Director, Richard Amerling, MD
Years of debating liberal friends and colleagues has brought me to an understanding: This question is at the core of the debate. The absurd notion of a “right” to health care underlies the movement towards socialized medicine. If this right does exist, it becomes a moral imperative to guarantee it for all, i.e. “universal coverage.”
There is no question that President Obama believes in a right to health care; he stated during the second presidential debate in 2008, “I think it should be a right for every American.” He has also been captured in a radio interview describing the Constitution and Bill of Rights as a “charter of negative rights” and that the Warren Court didn’t go far enough towards defining “what the government must do on your behalf.” We are now witnessing this philosophy in action as the Obama administration fulfills its campaign promise to “fundamentally transform America.”
No right to health care has yet been unearthed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or in any Supreme Court decision. The Declaration speaks of “unalienable rights” including the “pursuit of happiness.” There is no right to happiness itself, nor can there ever be.
Look at the Bill of Rights. There is nothing even remotely related to health care. Where specific rights are defined, the document is silent on how these rights are to be guaranteed. The second amendment guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms, but has never been interpreted as a mandate to provide arms to citizens. The sixth amendment defines due process in criminal trials and includes the right to have “the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” This did lead to court-appointed attorneys, but not calls for universal access to legal services. The first amendment includes freedom of speech, but doesn’t include free access to media (this was mandated by the “Fairness Doctrine,” thrown out during the Reagan administration).
The fundamental difference between a right to bear arms and a right to arms is that the former is free, while the latter requires labor to produce. There can be no right of individuals to the fruits of labor of another individual. Such an affirmative “right” ultimately treads on the liberty of the producer. One person’s “rights” lead to the trampling of another’s true rights to the pursuit of happiness. The end result is tyranny.
Whenever arguments devolve to this basic question, I ask, “Should there be a right to food, or shelter? Both are even more essential to survival than health care.” Suddenly backed into a corner, they answer “Yes.” Well, of course this concept led directly to governmental programs such as food stamps and farm subsidies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the entire Department of Housing and Urban Development, all taxpayer-funded wealth transfers that diminish the liberty and property of many to help a few.
The notion of a “right” to health care inspired governmental meddling that has all but destroyed the greatest health care system in the world. Beginning with the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance, on through Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, enormous unaccountable bureaucracies, direct third party payment with price controls and hyper-regulation, we are now on precipice of a complete government takeover.
Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurance companies impose price controls on physicians and limit private contracting with patients. Price controls steal the true value of physician time, thus depriving doctors of liberty. These plus onerous regulations increasingly limit treatment options (see ObamaCare: The Assault on Physician Autonomy).
The endgame of the “right” to health care is the complete enslavement of the medical profession. With this comes enormous risk to the individual, who must now petition bureaucrats in order to receive care. We already know how this turns out by looking to the United Kingdom and Canada. Close examination of both countries expodes the myth that universal coverage leads to universal access to health care.
Health care is a complex combination of goods and services, involving the time, energy and labor of millions of individuals. It can never be a right. The government cannot provide health care; it can only compel others to provide it, with great loss of individual liberty, not to mention financial calamity. The best way to improve access to health care is through free-market capitalism.