Religious Orders

We're Looking at Healthcare Rights Wrong

Posted: Thursday June 28 2012 @ 11:39am

Religious Order: Politics

So the Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare. I'm happy. I do wonder whether Roberts is basically betting that Obama will win again in November and is positioning himself to work with a possibly more liberal court in the future. While I think he's an ass, he's clearly not as bat-shit insane as Scalia and Thomas. (Then again, most people as bat-shit insane as Scalia are in padded rooms. Or on Fox News.)

But that's not about which I want to write. I have a theory related to the health care debate. It's not fully fleshed out but I think it's interesting. It deals with how we talk about the right to health care. I think we're phrasing it wrong and it hurts the cause of those of us who want a sane system, like all the rest of the civilized world.

When we talk about a right to health care, that's how we phrase it, as a right to health care. And that leads to two responses by the other side. One response is that of self-responsibility. People don't deserve health care, they need to earn it. (Left unexplained is why access to health care should be linked to the ability to earn income, as if the ability to earn income is the objective ultimate sign of general worthiness.)

The other response is the oddball one you get from Libertarians, in which a right to health care means slavery for doctors. If you're going to provide health care, then you'll have to force doctors to provide it.

It's that second response that started me thinking. Libertarians don't complain when the government provides law enforcement to protect their property ownership rights. Nor do they complain that the county may certify surveyors and maintains a records office to document some of those property rights. And why not? Because no one says there's a right to a records office. Instead, there's a right to buy and own property. A records office is merely a government provided service to enable folks to pursue the ownership of property.

Why don't we look at health care in the same way? We should be talking about a right to pursue good health, with access to health care being an enabling service. After all, health care providers don't hand out health. My doctor can't make me be healthy. All he can really do is provide advice, expertise, and tools to help me keep myself healthy. Maybe we should stop talking about the enabling service as being the actual right. After all, a right to pursue good health fits into two of the three pieces of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And, it also puts the proper focus on self-responsibility. Easy access to health enables people to actually be responsible for themselves. Again, health providers don't hand out health. They only provide advice, expertise, and tools which help other be responsible. Doctors can't cure my diabetes. But they can provide the tests and medications that help me control it. The onus is still on me. It's up to me to pursue good health. If folks really were concerned about self-responsibility, they would welcome easy access to health care as an enabler. Or, rather, as the removal of an excuse for any failures on my part.


Of course, there is no such thing as an objective right. We have whatever rights we as a society decide we have. Harsh, but true.


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