Is Healthcare a ‘Right’?


By: Warner Todd Huston

As we all know, the Senate is gearing up to begin the debate on Obamacare. As we move forward one of the first scheduled stops will be in the Senate on June 16 as the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee moves to begin its mark-up of the Health Care Reform Bill. But what are the basic assumptions that underlie this bill? Let’s take a look at one of them.

In a statement issued by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the HELP Committee, we see at least one assumption that is popular on the left, but one that should give pause to any liberty loving American. (See pdf file)

“The Council’s report emphasizes the major economic benefit to the nation that will also be
achieved if we make health care a basic right for all. In the current economic crisis, more and more families are being forced to leave their preferred doctors, forgo medication they need, or are even losing their health insurance entirely because their employer can no longer afford a health plan. We can’t afford to miss this chance to give the American people, at long last, the health care they deserve.”

Sure, it’s “compassionate” and all to say that healthcare is a “right.” But is it? Can it BE a right? And just what is a “right” anyway?

Simply defined, a right is something that an individual can exercise (as a sovereign individual) without asking anyone’s permission. It also carries the complementary notion that in exercising that right an individual cannot obligate anyone else to participate because to obligate others to act violates their own freedom of action (summarily eliminating their freedom to refuse to act, for instance).

So, how is health care a right? After all, to exercise the “right” to health care you are necessarily obligating a doctor or other health care professional to assist you with their time and training. Therefore to exercise health care as a “right” you are forcing other people to give you care. But, since your “right” to health care forces others to act on your behalf, you are basically violating their rights to refuse to participate.

Then we get to paying for it. If health care is a “right” then you are obligating government to pay for it and by obligating government to pay for it you are necessarily obligating taxpayers to pay for it, negating their right to refuse to participate.

This means that health care cannot be a right.

And this is just one of the many false assumptions that underlie the Democratic Party’s concepts of this health care debate. It is also just one more of the many reasons why conservatives and lovers of liberty and freedom should fight against it.

Finally, it is interesting to me that liberals that want socialized health care are obligating the taxpayers to pay for it, yet they use that same taxpayer’s obligation as a tool against other things. Liberals say, for instance, that schools should not be allowed to teach anything about religion because schools get federal money and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for any curriculum that might promulgate a religion they don’t agree with. On the other hand, liberals don’t want to give any taxpayers the option not to pay for someone else’s liposuction or transgendering operations. Ah, the pretzel logic of the left.

In the final analysis, healthcare just isn’t a right. By its very nature it cannot be. So, let’s stop saying it is.

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