A friend asked me very kindly why I thought healthcare was a right, not a privilege. This is the answer I put together.
There are multiple ways to explain my reasoning for this statement. One way is to identify parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, though those are the words of men who had to fight and compromise to come up with “a more perfect union,” (yet certainly not a perfect one). The better way to explain might be through religious feelings. But I’ll try to do both.
Starting with the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…
Healthcare to me is synonymous with Life. You have a right to live, and that includes getting the care needed to live. I can’t separate the two.
Consider the police, who help ensure domestic tranquility, and the right to liberty. They are not drafted or coerced into their jobs. We pay them, and they provide their services to all, regardless of income level. They are part of the government we’ve established.
Why can’t we ensure the right to life (health!) with a single payer system? Why would we reject the idea that everybody deserves healthcare regardless of income? This is LIFE we’re talking about. Not luxuries or entertainment. If two innocent children both need insulin, why does the one whose parents are investment bankers deserve it more than the child of the carpenters?
Why are we relying on charity to make up the difference? That’s the most disgusting thing – hoping for sufficient handouts to take care of people instead of just agreeing to tax everybody for greater care. No, not everyone wants to pay for it, but nobody likes all their taxes. I for one can’t stand the insane amount of my paycheck going to our military, for example. But that’s a whole other topic.
What about people smoke or drink or do drugs and endanger their lives by choice? Perhaps self-inflicted illness would be regarded as giving up that right to healthcare, the same way committing crimes rescind our rights to liberty. If we go that route, smokers and drinkers might lose treatment priority. I dunno. But before we can discuss how they lose the right to healthcare, we have to agree it’s an inalienable right in the first place.
So should we conscript doctors, force them to give treatment, if it’s a right to receive treatment? Obviously not. We don’t do that with the police who protect our other rights.
So what happens to the quality of our care when it becomes a right to all? Obviously more people will be getting treatment; supply as it stands currently will be even more outpaced by demand. That’s a problem. But it’s anathema to whether healthcare is a right or not. And it appears to be solvable – France’s single-payer system provides the best healthcare in the world, or did so in 2001, according to the World Health Organization.
Note: I don’t want socialized medicine – just because something is a right doesn’t mean we have to pay for it in a certain way. I want single-payer. Socialized medicine, where doctors are paid directly by the government, seems to have terrible results.
Does the Constitution as it stands allow for a single-payer system? Sure. The welfare clause says that Congress has power to enact taxes for the general welfare of the United States; surely the health of our citizens falls under “general welfare.” But if it didn’t allow for it, I’d say we need an amendment to fix it.
So what about the religious side of things?
It just makes sense to me. If I have the ability to save your life, it is my duty to do so, and it is your right to ask it of me. The system as it stands now seems to perpetually ask, “Do you have any money?” Those who don’t have sufficient for their needs are screwed.
Christ didn’t ask who deserved healing. All were partakers of his gift. As we can’t trust that human charity will always be there – and it frequently isn’t – we should legislate healthcare now, the same way we provide for the existence of police in our constitutions.
In Zion they had all things in common. The Church couldn’t handle the United Order, so it was set aside for now, but we should be striving to be willing to part with all things God has given us. Christ told the rich man to give away all that he had and come follow him. He told us the parable of the rich man who built bigger barns to contain all his riches, and said that man was headed to Hell. Let us never confuse being stewards of our wealth with being the entitled owners. We were given our talents and can work to increase them, but they all belong to God.
I don’t want communism, mind you. Having all things in common has to be done freely or it’s no Zion at all. But single-payer healthcare is not communism, despite some of the cries I hear from people on the right. If we can have a righteous law that would provide for everyone’s right to life, I think it’s imperative that we choose it.
How do we handle the shortage if it comes? How do you handle saving two drowning people when you only have one life preserver? Would you ask them who worked harder to afford it? Who deserved it more? Who has money? No; you’d evaluate who needs it first, perhaps, or maybe you’d give priority to the young, or maybe something else. But money is the last thing we should be using to determine who gets healthcare. It’s wholly unjust that I get better care because I’ve been blessed with a great job than the person who has not had as great of fortune.
Like I suggested before, better wordsmiths and thinkers than I have tackled this issue before. But you asked for my take, and this is it: Humans have a right to life, and that right encompasses a right to healthcare.