Health care: privilege or right?

When John Locke and Thomas Jefferson wrote that human beings possess God-given rights, including the right to life, and when they said that governments exist to protect those rights, they were not suggesting that governments ought to provide every citizen with food, clothing, shelter, health care, and all the other things needed to sustain and prolong their lives. Instead, they were saying that governments should deprive no one of life without due process; furthermore, that governments are obliged to protect the lives of citizens from dangers posed by foreign attackers and domestic criminals.

Locke and Jefferson envisioned a world in which people provided food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities of life for themselves and their dependents through their individual wealth and through wages for their labor. Individuals facing extreme need found help from extended family, neighbors, worship communities, and charitable organizations. Ebenezer Scrooge might sneer that workhouses and prisons sufficed to meet the needs of the poor, but in many cases compassion and charity filled the gaps where hard work and diligence did not suffice. Had God’s Law been obeyed by all the Israelites, there would have been no poverty in Israel. In his Judgment Day parable, Jesus commended those who have the hungry something to eat and gave the thirsty something to drink; he said nothing about lobbying the government to provide resources for those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, and ill.

In the “good old days,” doctors made house calls. Sometimes they accepted vegetables or baked goods as payment for their services; sometimes they waived payment out of the kindness of their hearts. But in those “good old days,” doctors did not remove cataracts, provide knee and hip replacements, or use CAT scans to diagnose problems. Health care and medicine have come a long way since the “good old days,” which is why they are so expensive. People expect more from their doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and therapy centers than ever before. Every year, research and development provide new benefits to conquer disease and to prolong life and health. Some research and development is funded by government grants, and some raises money through donations, but much is done by for-profit companies. They have the combined goals of making life better for all people and offering a return on the investment of their sponsors.

Health insurance was invented as a way to spread the cost of health care move evenly over time and throughout the population. Buyers of insurance gamble that they are going to get sick and need expensive care; providers of insurance gamble that most people are not going to get sick and need expensive care. Insurance is necessarily inflationary—an insurance company must pay workers, maintain offices, and return a profit to their investors, while still keeping their promises to pay the medical expenses of their customers. A complicated system of fees, deductibles, negotiated settlements, and other financial arrangements has developed out of these needs. Otto von Bismarck of Germany was one of the first government leaders to ask employers to contribute to the health insurance of their workers. Today a person struggling to pay medical bills may also be benefiting from the health care industry through investments that are adding to that same person’s retirement fund. Life is complicated that way.

In the free market, health care and health insurance may not always be fair. People with more money can afford more helpful health insurance, while those with less money have insurance that does less for them. Wealthy people can afford care that is unavailable to others. Within the free market, governments intervene to make sure that essential care is available to all. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics cannot deny certain kinds of care to people in need, even when those people cannot afford to pay. Defining “essential care” is a challenge faced by members of the government, who must negotiate with each other to write a law that meets that need.

Under pure socialism, the government would gain control of all hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, medical offices, rehabilitation centers, and therapy providers. The government would pay the salaries of all health care workers as well as all other costs of maintaining these facilities. Citizens could receive health care at no cost; although, to reduce the burden on taxpayers, the government might require fees for certain services that are not defined as “essential care.”

The Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 (known as Obamacare) stopped far short of socializing all health care in the United States. Much of the legislation in that package focused its attention on health insurance rather than on reducing the cost of health care. More innovation in the latter regard might solve some of the current problems in American health care without threatening greater government control or a trend toward socialism.

Education of health care workers is expensive. Many professional health care workers begin their careers with enormous debts. Government loans that are part of that debt could be reduced or forgiven when these professionals participate in health care benefits to the poor and deprived—providing health care through urban centers for the poor, homeless shelters, and the like. Medical facilities and equipment are also expensive. Government grants could make them available in low-income communities at less cost than it takes to promise free health care to all the poor in those communities. Research and development need to continue in the health care industry. Government grants and charitable organizations contribute to the costs of research and development, but private funding with a hope for a profitable return should never be excluded from the equation.

The world contains sufficient food that no one should be hungry. Food is not distributed fairly. Inviting the government to collect all the food and distribute it evenly would be wasteful and unfair. Charitable giving, with some government participation, solves the problem far better than would total government control.

Sufficient housing exists in the United States for all the people who live here. Problems of homelessness are complicated by mental illness, addictions, personal choice (in a few cases), and other factors. Forcing every American to live in government-provided housing would be wasteful and unfair. The free market—with some charitable help and some government participation—solves the problem far better than would total government control.

Health care can be provided for all Americans. Putting the government in control of all health care—or even in control of all health insurance—would be wasteful and unfair. People need to be allowed to choose among various options regarding both health care and health insurance. Charitable help, with some government participation (such as Medicare) solves the problem far better than would total government control.

Protecting each citizen’s right to life is not the same as meeting each citizen’s needs in every way. The free market always innovates and creates better answers than would total government control. Through further study, negotiation, and compromise, more help can be found for the needy. Socialism does not offer answer that would improve upon the current system. J.

15 thoughts on “Health care: privilege or right?

  1. I have a conservative/libertarian inclination. My personal belief is that if I cause no harm to other people, directly or indirectly, government should stay out of my business. Just my thoughts personally.

    On the marriage issue, get the government out of it entirely. Abolish all laws related to marriage. Why do politicians even want to legislate an issue that should be by its very nature and definition a private matter?

    Personally, I am in favor of a non-interventionist foreign policy. We don’t allow the rest of the world to dictate how we do things. Why do we stick our noses where they don’t belong?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s easy to say, but hard to practice. Just taking “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” some legal scholars have claimed rights to things that make those three benefits possible, including food, shelter, and medical care. Likewise, the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights have been legally expanded and interpreted in various ways–for example, “no cruel and unusual punishments” can be applied a number of different ways. The conversation must continue… J.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Running back in here again to wish you a Merry Christmas with all things good for you and your family. I really value your blogs. I always learn something from them. Thank you for likes and comments. They make a nice gift when I gather them up at Christmas time. A special time to appreciate the good things in life. Have a blessed week lasting well into the future.

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  3. Thanks for writing this as I know many see this issue and think they want socialism. Thank you also for your comment. I am rushing to try to finish one of your books to review it and will probably post it a little after Christmas, hopefully as something people will buy if they get Amazon gift cards, etc

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  4. First off, I should say that I am glad to live in a country where I don’t have to open up my cheque book when I need to see a doctor.

    My mom is old enough to remember when we didn’t have universal health care, and as a young girl I remember her telling me that since the advent of “free” healthcare, people’s attitudes towards seeing the doctor really changed. People didn’t run to the doctor’s office every time they had a little sniffle, because they had to pay for it out of pocket. She too was glad to be able to access care when it was needed, but she strongly believed that as healthcare “consumers” we had an obligation to be good stewards of the resources available to us. Consequently, we didn’t run off to the doctor’s for every little thing; when we went, it was because we were SICK. It was not unusual to go for years without seeing the doctor. As long as we were healthy, there was no need.

    Today, if I want to remain on my doctor’s patient roster, I must see her a minimum of once a year. Not sick? Doesn’t matter. About a decade ago, the annual “health check-up” became mandatory. At my age, a regular checkup is probably a prudent thing – but i resent having it held over my head under the threat of losing my physician if I don’t comply.

    Healthcare in this country has become commoditized and patients have become “consumers”. Like every other aspect of consumer culture, the goal is to get us to consume ever more goods and services, whether we need them or not.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To a certain extent that change has happened in the USofA as well. However, the requirement for copays and deductibles blunts the urge to see the doctor for every sneeze and cough. Wellness check-ups are encouraged, and that might not be a bad thing. But our obsession with physical health has several detriments: It distracts us from more important, non-physical concerns; it promotes the illusion that there is a pill or procedure to magically fix whatever ails us; and it gives the ones in charge power over our lives–whether they are medical providers, insurance agents, or the government. As you say, turning us into consumers changes our approach to health and wellness, and that change can be unhealthy. J.

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  5. Interesting post, Salvageable! I think corruption, bureaucracy, government, and the insurance industry have done a great deal to make health care unaffordable, less available to all. My second complaint is, does healthcare make us healthier? Americans spend a ton on healthcare and are some of the unhealthiest people on the planet. For me, one of the hardest things has been trying to keep healthcare out of our lives. In my state 13 yr olds have access outside of parental consent to reproductive care and mental health care, which can lead to hormonal birth control and psychiatric drugs, which can lead to pain meds like oxycontin, which can cause addiction, which leads them to suboxone clinics. Long story short, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to basically make healthy young people, much sicker.

    If you ask me, which of course you didn’t, I really see a showdown coming between this really monumental thing we call institutional healthcare and the actual health and well being of people. Healthcare is now becoming mandatory and whenever you introduce force you’ve deprived people of free will and the ability to make their own choices, so it is no longer their needs that are being met. And of course, people all full of compassion are not really defining what they mean by “healthcare” or whose interests are actually being served.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I consider the subject of slavery, it reminds of the fact we are fallen creatures. Without the grace of God, each of us is quite capable of abusing other people and finding nothing wrong with it. Because such abuse is so normal, for untold generations men saw nothing wrong with slavery. In most of the world, because tyranny is expected, slavery is still quite normal.

      People make their living off of our healthcare system in a variety of ways. The bureaucracy that surrounds the healthcare system is probably that part most insulated from patients, and it is also that part that most benefits from socialized medicine. Give the inclinations of our fellow human beings, how difficult is it to believe that insurance companies and their employees would like nothing more than guaranteed business with a guaranteed profit? Hence, I think Insanitybytes22 is just observing the obvious. Guaranteeing insurance companies and their employees a profit will lead to our exploitation.

      Where should we draw the line? I think it pays to remember something very fundamental. When we set up a government, we give that government the right tax us. What justifies giving our government the right to take our money from us by force? Without a government to protect our rights — to protect us from each other — even the strong among us risks loosing their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

      When we start redistributing the wealth, we no longer have a limited government that exists to accomplish an absolutely necessary task. Instead of protecting God-given rights, we now have a government that exists to give us our “rights”, “right” we gain at the expense of the property rights of our fellow citizens. How do politicians and advocates justify such a huge mission creep? They create a false dilemma. Without socialized medicine, people will die, but, arguably, more will die because of the mission creep.

      When we allow politicians to buy our votes with government-given “rights”, we know the leaders we elect can be bought. We know this because of the ethics they have already exhibited. When they promised to give us new “rights” by making our neighbors pay for these rights, they bought our votes. Because they see nothing wrong with robbing our neighbors, such leaders cannot be trusted. They will sell us to the highest bidder. To steal millions, they will waste billions. In their greed, they will turn our country into a place of sorrowful desolation.

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      • Excellent points. And the first step toward reversing this danger of government controlling our health decisions and our health spending (as individuals and as community) is awareness of what is happening. J.

        Liked by 1 person

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