Health care: a right or a privilege?

I have attended several local citizen groups that provided recommendations on health-care reform to the Obama Transition Team. Before we knew what reforms to recommend, we addressed a key question: Is access to affordable health care a human right for everyone, or is it a privilege available only to those who can afford it?

If you believe it is a human right, then the best option is a single-payer national health-insurance program that everyone can afford. Then health-care reform would focus on making it affordable. If you believe it is a privilege, then up to 45 million Americans will remain without affordable health insurance and reform would focus on how to contain costs.

If you believe—like I do—that affordable health care is a right, then we must shift our focus from a disease-oriented model to a prevention-oriented model that emphasizes wellness and public-health education. Prevention is the best way to make health care affordable. Two examples are heart disease and cancer.

The annual cost of over 1.5 million coronary-bypass-graft or angioplasty surgeries is $60 billion. Three percent of these surgeries prevent future heart attacks. Each cancer patient pays out more than $500,000 for treatment before dying. The annual cost of treating the 556,650 cancer patients who die is over $278 billion.

There is a wealth of credible research evidence showing how to prevent most heart disease and cancers through proper diet, nutrition, exercise and stress reduction—thus saving billions of dollars in health-care costs. These preventative measures help make health care affordable, build healthy bodies and strengthen our immune systems. This country desperately needs an affordable, single-payer national health-insurance program that starts with good public-health education about how to prevent diseases and promote wellness.

— Barry Weinhold
Swannanoa

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25 thoughts on “Health care: a right or a privilege?

  1. Dionysis

    According to Ayn Rand’s biggest local fan, nothing is a right (or should be) other than the complete and unfettered ‘right’ to pursue one’s greed without any interference. Followed to its logical (?) ends, it would mean, among other things, environmental destruction the likes of which one can only imagine. These worshippers of the Private Property God would have funnel cake stands in the Grand Canyon (hey, it would their ‘right’).

  2. Piffy!

    you never know when the time will be right for a good funnel cake.

  3. Actually I don’t think access to health care is a “human right.” Health care is a service provided by another. It is different from freedom of speech or assembly where the individual makes a choice for themselves or freedom from slavery or torture, that prevents exploitation by others. To call it a human right would require it be applied to all persons globally and while that is a laudable goal it is unpractical, both economically and from a scientific epidemiological perspective.

    Calling access to health care a human right I think causes more vocal resistance from the extreme fringes of civilized thought. To me it would better thought of as a common good, more in line with a public education. And yes that is an easy target for a bad comparison.

    The unfettered free market, as most reality based thinkers will observe, is not always geared towards the best outcome for the common good. A national health-insurance program that will cover all Americans is the best chance to achieve this common good, much like taxes pay for common infrastructure like roads and highways.

    Another key to getting this sensible reform passed in a civilized western democracy would be to emphasize that this is insurance reform more than it is medical reform. Health professionals and patients would be able to operate freely within the existing regulations that govern the health professions.

  4. Dionysis

    Christopher C NC, you raise some very valid observations and points. A thoughtful post.

  5. F.A. John Doubleclutch

    Tim Peck wrote: Health Care Is Not a Right [video]
    By Leonard Peikoff | December 11, 1993

    Tim, Is this your view point or are you just providing a video you found that counters the letter writers assertion that health care is a right.

  6. rationalinfidel

    “Health care is a service provided by another.”

    Yes, Christopher. You framed it properly in that sentence.

    And no one has a “right” to the service of another person.

    By the way, we already have a name for requiring the service of another. We call it slavery. And it is not a “laudable goal,” despite your comments to the contrary.

    I’ll visit additional contradictions in your post as soon as I can.

    Maybe you can comment on why you use the phrase “human right.” Are there other categories of rights?

  7. Well irrationalinfidel, I’m sorry to hear that you do not think providing health care to people is a laudable goal. I guess you would prefer that they all just die right?

    The phrase “human right” is used because the discussion centers around the species Homo sapiens. No one is talking about other animal species or plants or political systems or sub-classes of homo sapiens. This refers to the entire group of beings called humans, hence the phrase “human right.”

  8. rationalinfidel

    Now tell me this, AntiChrist-opher, how can I go back and correct your past mistakes, if you are going to generate new ones at this pace? The burden may prove too great for me.

    You write (with typical disrespect), “Well irrationalinfidel, I’m sorry to hear that you do not think providing health care to people is a laudable goal.”

    Where did I write that? It would help if you actually read my words, or at least have someone read them to you.

    I wrote that slavery was not a laudable goal.

    Then you pluck this out of the air: “I guess you would prefer that they all just die right?”

    Can you wrap your mind around any other possibilities? Thinking might help here.

    ”The phrase “human right” is used because the discussion centers around the species Homo sapiens. No one is talking about other animal species or plants or political systems or sub-classes of homo sapiens. This refers to the entire group of beings called humans, hence the phrase “human right.”

    When you write “human right,” you imply that non-human things also may have rights. I was trying to clarify your comments in order to better understand why you are making such errors. You haven’t helped me in this regard.

  9. Infidel, I would suggest you go back and read my original comment with a clear head. If you are unable to do that, I can’t help you.

  10. John

    The more prosperous our society becomes, the more ‘rights’ we bestow on ourselves.

    I spent over a decade behind the scenes in health care. Coverage for everyone does not automatically imply a single payor system as some want. No one here has said that yet, but I could smell it coming.

    Medicare is a single payor system run by our gov’t and is a complete disaster when you look at their internal operations and policy making. I’m all for more access to health care, but letting the gov’t be in charge of the whole thing would be like having your health care provided at the county garage or the IRS .. not exactly models of efficiency.

    Medicare currently governs most every step of how current insurance companies operate and I can tell you first hand that its a mess. The paperwork requirements are cumbersome .. I’m being nice here .. and the reimbursements that Medicare imposes on almost all products and services often lack rhyme or reason.

    Be careful what you ask for. You might actually get it.

  11. rationalinfidel

    “Infidel, I would suggest you go back and read my original comment with a clear head. If you are unable to do that, I can’t help you.”

    My head is clear, Chris, and so is my writing. Not like the confused package deals you put on display.

    But that’s what I’m here for: to identify your breaks with logic. I don’t do it because I am being forced to – for that would be slavery.

    I do it because I want to help you. We call such voluntary help for those who need it charity.

    Are you beginning to understand the difference between these two concepts?

    You certainly didn’t understand it earlier when you offered this bit of wisdom: “(Health Care) is different from freedom of speech or assembly where the individual makes a choice for themselves or freedom from slavery or torture, that prevents exploitation by others” and then proceeded to call a government mandated, single-payer national health insurance program a “sensible reform.”

    Here is your “logic,” so far:

    1) Access to health care is not a right.
    2) Freedom from slavery that prevents exploitation from others is a right.
    3) Mandated national health care is sensible.
    4) We should exploit some folks to make this happen.

    Did you work this out with a “clear head,” Chris?

  12. RUaninfidel, your online demeanor is very off putting and does not lend itself to a civil discussion. Have you considered taking anger management classes or attending a charm school?

  13. rationalinfidel

    “RUaninfidel, your online demeanor is very off putting and does not lend itself to a civil discussion.”

    You address me with names other than the one I selected, you “guess” that I would prefer that people “just die,” and you suggest that I read your contradictory comments with a “clear head.”

    Is that what you call a civil discussion?

    Not sure why you think I am angry. Disappointed is a better description.

    Now would you care to explain why you think slavery is wrong because it exploits others yet you want to exploit others to implement national health care?

    I would think that it’s a fair question.

    No anger. No name calling. Just a civil explanation.

  14. travelah

    What criteria should be used to determine what is a “human right” and what is privilege or desire based on availability? In other words, where are these inalienable rights articulated? Medicine is an evolving science with a vast myriad of treatments and diseases. If medical care is a human right, somebody has to define what medical care would qualify as such. Is stemming the loss of blood from a severe wound on equal footing with terminating the life of a child in the last trimester of pregnancy? Perhaps breast augmentation should rest easy alongside setting a child’s broken leg?
    The issues involved with health care are immensely complicated and are not solved by neophyte rhetoric and it’s false dilemma of choices. As a society we have already determined several medical treatments as a right i.e. emergency room treatment of immediate needs. When the rhetoric is stripped away, we are really left with an argument over payer systems rather than an issue of human right vs. privilege and I do not think the ownership of payment has anything at all to do with “human rights”.

  15. “In other words, where are these inalienable rights articulated?”

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    http://un.org/Overview/rights.html
    was adopted in December of 1948. Article 25 speaks to access to healthcare in the form of standard of living.

    “When the rhetoric is stripped away, we are really left with an argument over payer systems…”

    I agree. This is really about insurance reform more than anything else with the goal being access to better health care for more people.

  16. rationalinfidel

    Article 3, from this “Declaration” of Human Rights:

    “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

    And from Article 4:

    “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; …”

    So do you have right to liberty, free from servitude, or do you have to provide me with the latest medical breakthroughs at your expense?

  17. rationalinfidel

    Thanks for introducing me to this “Declaration,” Christopher. I think it gets to the heart of this question of “rights.”

    Here is Article 22:

    “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

    Who could possibly deny these “rights”?

    They are so well-founded and well-defined.

    “When the rhetoric is stripped away, we are really left with an argument over payer systems…”

    Yes, by all means we must stop the discussion about rights. Let’s get about the business of choosing the most effective method for expropriating the wealth of others.

  18. travelah

    Pointing to the UN declaration (of which I place no stock out of principle)the question remains as to whose standard of living determines a right of access? Are Mexican citizens entitled as a course of human rights to the same standard of living as those persons in Stockholm? The UN declaration is an arbitrary standard expressed as a political document rather than an affirmation of a set of human rights that have never been agreed to throughout human history.
    I find it more palpable to keep the discussion as one of reasonable access with the political language removed. Otherwise we end up with “rights” discussions around whether or not another human being is entitled to what I have or you have. In other words is it a human right to lower the standard of living of others because one is less fortunate? I do not believe so. That said, lets see suggestions regarding portability of insurance, preemptive health care and an overhaul of the insurance/medical field relationship.

  19. rationalinfidel

    “I find it more palpable to keep the discussion as one of reasonable access with the political language removed. Otherwise we end up with “rights” discussions around whether or not another human being is entitled to what I have or you have.”

    Why sidestep the fundamental issue of rights? Isn’t this question a bit more important than “portability of insurance”?

    You seem to play both sides of this issue.

    I have posed the question to Christopher and I now pose the same to you:

    Do you have a right to liberty, free from servitude, or do you have to provide me with the latest medical breakthroughs at your expense?

  20. travelah, I agree with you as you should be able to tell from my original comment back up top. I didn’t think everyone here would take the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as binding, feasible or even desireable. I just pointed to it as a place where “human rights” are articulated.

    The discussion of health insurance reform needs to be separated from the issue of “rights.” I called access to health care a common good. Even as a common good you can only try to do the best you can. It isn’t ever likely to be perfect or to everyones liking.

  21. Austin

    Why anyone would want a health care system run by lobbyist and insurance companies and the crooked politicians I will never know. But If you can’t be civil in a post, then you can’t be expected to come from this issue with compassion, and thus have nothing to offer the debate. We can and will do better because the system is broken. Sorry, you uber-capitalist will have to tough it out and turn up the whine while we get down to the serious business of creating health opportunities for those who need it.

  22. rationalinfidel

    “Why anyone would want a health care system run by lobbyist and insurance companies and the crooked politicians I will never know.”

    Why anyone would want to pose such an illogical, straw man argument, I will never know.

    Well, actually I do know.

    It’s to obfuscate – to draw attention away from the core issue. It’s an act of evasion when logical arguments fail you.

    Further, nationalized health care will increase the influence and control of the “crooked politicians” in the health care industry.

    “But If you can’t be civil in a post, then you can’t be expected to come from this issue with compassion, and thus have nothing to offer the debate.”

    Right. Compassion is license to steal. This is what you offer to the debate without having the moral courage to express it explicitly.

    “Sorry, you uber-capitalist will have to tough it out and turn up the whine while we get down to the serious business of creating health opportunities for those who need it.”

    Yes, you sure are a civil one, Austin.

    And we can all observe how you gloss over the moral question. Theft now becomes “creating health opportunities for those who need it.”

    By your formulation, auto theft becomes “creating business opportunities for dealerships that need it.”

    Glad you’re here, Austin. You have brought so much to the debate.

  23. John

    Austin – who do you want to run your healthcare? I’m just curious. Your rhetoric is so general you could use it for just about any topic. Can you be a tad more specific or are you just venting?

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