February 9, 2017

Is Health Care a Right?

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders duke it out over that very question.

When Dr. Benjamin Rush, often called the “Founder of American Medicine,” signed his name to the Declaration of Independence, he failed his profession miserably by neglecting to add “free health care” to the trio of inalienable rights. At least, this might be Senator Bernie Sanders’ perspective.

Sanders and Senator Ted Cruz squared off Tuesday night on CNN to debate ObamaCare. This comes as visions of repeal dance in conservatives’ minds and the media goes apoplectic that “millions” could lose their insurance if Congress dares tinker with Barack Obama’s health care catastrophe.

The two former presidential candidates began from a point of agreement: The current system isn’t working. Of course, this shouldn’t shock anyone who has seen premiums skyrocket year after year or has lost an insurance plan — maybe multiple times — that supposedly was guaranteed a keeper.

But “broken” apparently means different things to different people. Not surprisingly, while Cruz thinks government management is health care’s nemesis Sanders views it as its savior.

“ObamaCare … was built on an edifice of lies,” Cruz said. He added, “The answer is: empower you, give you choices, lower prices, lower premiums, lower deductibles.” And he also concluded, “Should Congress move swiftly to repeal ObamaCare? Absolutely. [But no] one thinks we’re done once ObamaCare is repealed.”

Sanders, on the other hand, views ObamaCare’s foundation of falsehoods as a reasonable launching point. “ObamaCare is a step forward,” he said, “We have got to go further.” What does further mean? Well, Sanders implored, “Ted, let’s work together for a Medicare-for-all, single payer insurer system.” Of course, that “single” payer would actually be tens of millions of American taxpayers…

Boiling it down, Reason’s Ed Krayewski writes that on the one hand, Sanders insists health care is a right while Cruz believes “access to health care is a right.”

Universal and inalienable God-given rights are few — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Constitutionally guaranteed rights are a bit more numerous yet still numbered — the right to bear arms, the right to assemble, the right to free speech, the right to trial by jury, the right to exercise our faith freely, and a few others. Nowhere in either list does the right to health care exist. Nor should it.

The problem with saying even merely “access” to health care is a fundamental, government-protected right is that Democrats insist government must also provide the product to which access is guaranteed — either by managing health care itself or by controlling the industry to ensure health care is provided. (Funny, they don’t say this about the right to bear arms.) And if you have a “right” to receive health care, someone else has an obligation to provide it.

Note that the Declaration of Independence doesn’t recognize a right to happiness — just to pursue it.

Instead, within the constitutionally outlined role of government — and the constitutionally prescribed limits of the same — the responsibility of government is to allow a free market. In this market, private companies can provide access to quality health care which individuals, free of government mandate, coercion, or subsidy, can pursue. In other words, private industry produces both the product and the access. Government simply ensures an environment in which the private sector can act — and then gets out of the way.

It’s a fine but important line. Government is responsible neither for providing health care nor for providing access to health care — only for protecting an environment in which access to health care can flourish within the private sector.

In this sense, John Sexton is correct in writing that the Cruz-Sanders match-up “was evidence that the debate over ObamaCare is really just part of a broader debate about capitalism versus socialism.”

And as Merriam-Webster [reminds us, capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.” Noticeably missing in this description is the word “government.”

And when it comes to health care, we must restore that.

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