Health care is not a right

Matt White

Americans have many important rights, such as freedom of speech, keeping and bearing arms, and believing (or not believing) in the religion of their choice. But, there is one thing in particular Americans do not have a right to, and that’s health care.

Some people misunderstand compassion to mean that society as a whole has the responsibility to meet the needs of those without health care. Presumably, they reason, because people without health care can’t take care of themselves, that someone else — likely the government — must take care of the them instead. This is foggy thinking that is ultimately harmful to everyone.

Unlike many of our Constitutional rights, which prevent the government from taking something away from us or interfering in our lives (these are known as negative rights), a right to health care would be a positive right — meaning it would be something the government has to provide for us. The problem is, the only way a government can provide a positive right is to expand itself, intrude in our lives and tax us heavily.

But, there are other problems with a “right” to health care. Making health care a right places the needs of health care recipients above the rights of physicians, hospitals and insurers, all of whom have conflicting and well-established rights to property. The right to property means the ability to freely acquire wealth, buy and sell services and keep the fruits of labor.

Right now, patients are free to choose the type of care they want, the health care providers they want to see and whether they want health insurance at all. Doctors and other providers are free to offer the services they choose at the prices they wish. But, creating a right to health care would interfere with all of that. When there’s a right to health care, it means that doctors and hospitals have to provide services and care they may or may not wish to. A right to health care isn’t just the freedom to pursue the type of health care you want — it’s an obligation on others to give it to you. In this sense, it’s the absence of freedom for doctors and hospitals, who can no longer engage in the type of commerce they choose.

From a moral outlook, those people who believe in a right to health care have simply got it wrong. They believe it’s simply OK to suspend the Constitutional rights of doctors to meet the needs of people without health care. This is not altruism or compassion; this is fascism. Rights must secure us the opportunity to strive for things, for instance, the opportunity to strive for happiness. But, a right to health care is simply an obligation.

In discussing the immoral nature of a right to health care, David Kelley of the Atlas Society, points to the true nature of rights. “It is only in a context of freedom that one person’s need is not a threat to others. It is only in a context of freedom that genuine benevolence among people is possible. It is only in a context of freedom that the medical progress that has brought so many benefits to us all can continue.”

Matt White is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].