Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.”     Lord Acton

December 23, 2009

The real right to health care

by Quincy

Democrats are addicted to saying that there is a right to health care, and subsequently hammering anyone who opposes their disastrous reform bill as opposing that right. The truth is, there is a right to health care, and it is consistently opposed by the left, not the right.

Put simply, each person has the right to seek the health care he deems appropriate for him and his family within the limits of his budget or insurance. A corollary to this is that each person has the right to seek the health insurance that he deems appropriate. This same right applies when buying TVs, cars, dinner, books, etc., and is fundamental to a free existence.

First, an example from Britain of a grievous violation of this right:

If health care is a fundamental right, equality under the law would seem to require that everyone have the same level of care, regardless of their resources. That principle was illustrated by the case of Debbie Hirst, a British woman with metastasized breast cancer who in 2007 was denied access to a commonly used drug on the grounds that it was too expensive.

When Hirst decided to raise money to pay for the drug on her own, she was told that doing so would make her ineligible for further treatment by the National Health Service. According to The New York Times, “Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.” The right to health care is so important, it seems, that it can nullify itself.

Mrs. Hirst was forced into a system where the right to seek appropriate care was appropriated by the government. When the National Health Service exercised a right that did not belong to it, Mrs. Hirst tried to use the resources available to her to reassert her right to seek health care. She was told if she were to do so, she would be forced out of the program that provides the only affordable health care for the lower and middle classes in the UK.

Take that example and apply it to the Reid bill. Centralized authority regulating what health insurance can and can’t cover, can and can’t cost, how much doctors will get paid by the public option… From Richard Epstein in the Wall Street Journal:

Normally, insurers have the power to underwrite—to choose their line of business, to select and to price risks, and to decline unattractive risks. Not under the Reid bill. In its frantic effort to expand coverage to the uninsured, the bill will create state health-care exchanges supported by generous federal subsidies to unspecified millions of needy and low-income individuals. Any health insurance carrier that steers clear of these exchanges cannot keep its customers. Any insurance carrier that enters Mr. Reid’s inferno will lose its financial shirt.

Here are some reasons why. Initially, all insurers have to take all comers and to renew all policies except for nonpayment of premiums. Insurers are not allowed to take into account differential risks based on pre-existing conditions. And the premium differentials based on such matters as age and tobacco use are smaller than the market spreads. If too many customers demand coverage from a given insurer to insure efficiently, it’s the government that will decide how many they have to keep and who they are.

Next, it’s the government that requires extensive coverage including “ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative [sic!] services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, pediatric services, including oral and vision care.” The price squeeze gets even tighter because in every required area of care a collection of government standards will help set the minimum level of required services.

Ostensibly, the Reid bill does not impose any direct price controls on what health insurers can charge for this veritable cornucopia of services. But the bill’s complex, cooperative federalism scheme authorizes state regulators, after recommendations from the federal government, to exclude insurers from the exchanges if their prices are too high, which would again be a competitive death knell. Exile from the exchange does not, however, restore traditional underwriting controls, as the Reid bill and other federal and state regulation continue to apply to these firms.

The bill is designed to turn the health industry from servants of payers (primarily employers, insurers, and the government) into a servants of Congress and the President.

We are headed towards a day where our fundamental right to seek health care is non-existent, replaced by a state of submission where our betters in Washington decide what health care we should get. Anyone who equates a right to health care with taxpayer subsidized health care is mounting an assault on the real right to health care. Call them out, prove them wrong, and shout them down.

UPDATE 12/23: Added the section from Richard Epstein.

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3 Comments

  1. It is more like you are saying that you only have a right to beg for health care and have the right to die if what you can afford cannot cover your medical expenses. It amazes me when all that charity out there fails to become available until after someone dies or the person has gotten too sick to avail of the procedure when the bake sales have raised enough money..

    Comment by VRB — December 24, 2009 @ 3:59 am
  2. VRB –

    It’s possible to provide health care to those who need it, even using government money, without forcing the rest of us into a system where we are denied the right to seek the health care that we feel is most appropriate.

    The current socialist machine doesn’t care who gets health care so long as people play by the rules the socialists design to ensure everything is “fair” and “equal”.

    Comment by Quincy — December 24, 2009 @ 8:51 am
  3. The most prevalent maladies of a population are those that the public has acquired = consumed in common, en masse. Standardization is an application of Management Science that enables the risk of remedies to be mass produced by managers for a market of consumers who demand malady : remedy products. Tremendous leverage exists not only as a result of economy of scale, but also because the most prevalent remedies, refined Standard Operating therapies and Generic pharmaceutical recipes known to mass-produce wellness ~ require only “Nurse Practitioner” level skills to master and administer. Directed health care is a profitable enterprise when risk is well managed.

    One innovative feature of 21st century health care will be the de-criminalization of “medicine,” that is, self-directed health care: where people can acquire “medical know-how,” diagnostic “kits,” and “pharmaceutical remedies” without the archaic requirement of a “prescription” = permission from the State for a citizen as a consumer to acquire this knowledge and own these means to wellness. Self-directed health care is a consumer right.

    We will see the proliferation of malady : remedy know-how through the mass media means of Social Networking. Archaic medical prose noise and duplication of efforts (constantly re-inventing the malady : remedy regimen + Rx recipe) is minimized by a public acting as self-organizing, wellness data mining consumers. Social self-organized health care is a universal human right. We, the People ~ not the State, will create this, The Public Option of the 21st century.

    Comment by MonsieurGonzo — December 24, 2009 @ 8:52 am

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