Health Care: A Right or a Privilege?

Let’s go back to a question that I have posed several times to myself and never came back with a satisfactory answer:

Is access to health care a fundamental human right?

Answer: No.  It’s not.  But guess what… neither is having a firetruck come to your house when it’s on fire.  And neither is getting a free basic education. And neither are the other umpteen government services that are provided in our society.

We do those things, and fund them out of taxpayer money, because they are the right things to do for our citizens.

A high literacy rate and education produces a strong, innovative, productive workforce that fuels that economic engine of this country.

A firetruck keeps my house from burning down when my neighbor’s goes up in flames.

Health care isn’t a human right, but it’s an essential service that we clearly can’t LIVE without.

And that’s what it’s all about.  We just want to live, right?  We all want to live and live well.  And this is why people get so scared when the government talks about dinkering with anything in the health care arena.  People are afraid to lose what health care they have.

I’ll admit I’m afraid to lose what I have, but that fear exists whether or not any legislation passes this year.

I have great insurance from a great company.  There are great hospitals in my area who would care well for me.  The problem is that 50 million Americans – 1 in 5 of us – doesn’t have any chance of ever using that great system, and I’m just one recessional layoff or one chronic condition away from joining them.

We all are.

So many of us live in a “la la land” where we think that whatever insurance we have now will be there tomorrow and forever.  It won’t.  Just ask anyone who’s turned 65 lately about that…

But is a government takeover of all health care the best idea?  I still think: no.  But maybe they do have a role in some part of it.

Let’s consider education: We continue to have the best higher education system in the world, but it is built on the foundation of our government-funded secondary education.  Right there is a system of partially private/partially public success.

Perhaps we need some kind of basic, preventative care for all of our citizens and have insurance and hospitals for the more premium/advanced care?

I don’t know.  I’m just saying we need something different, cause what we’ve got today sure ain’t working.

10 thoughts on “Health Care: A Right or a Privilege?”

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful blog on health care….yup… maybe a thought or two from one who is in his retirement years. I do have medicare and also carry a supplement policy which gives me sufficent coverage on my health care needs. However, least you think it is free, not so.
    I pay $120 per month on medicare and $220 per month on my supplement for a grand total of $340. And beginning the first of the year it will go up another $75 per month which will be over $400 per month. Very expensive indeed until I may have to go to the hospital or have some other serious health overcome me, then I will be glad that I am insured, and so will my family. My thinking is that there are so many freeloaders out there that won’t buy insurance. I guess that you could say that I am responsible for my own care and if the freeloaders would be the same, health care would cost a whole lot less. Way to many say that they can’t afford it, I say poo on that. I live on a fixed income, which it appears that will also go down somewhat if Obama and his cronies get their way, then most should also be able to afford health care. Most surveys say that if everyone paid their fair share, it would be cheaper for everyone. My auto insurance is also higher because of those who are not responsible, I have to purchase uninsured motorist coverage.
    However, after all said and done, I am still blessed to live in America and enjoy the freedoms that are here. For how much longer that will be, remains to seen and played out.

  2. WE, I agree with most of what you said. However, you made a statement that is misleading and it is one that the Obamalites have been using to sway things their way. That is the statement about 50 million uninsured Americans. For starters, there are actually only 47 million uninsured people but they aren’t all Americans. 11 million of them are illegal aliens. Of the remaining 36 million, many (about half) make over $75K/year which is plenty to be able to afford health insurance so they are uninsured by choice. When you boil it all down there are really only between 12-18 million Americans who may not be able to afford health insurance and I believe this number is actually smaller. Cinergyhealth provides low or no deductible, basic health insurance for an individual for about $2200/year or $3700/year to cover a family. Anyone making over $15K/year ought to be able to afford this. Granted, Cinergyhealth doesn’t cover catastrophic situations but they at least provide coverage for preventive and most common medical needs.

    Now, if some of those uninsured people are choosing to pay for cable TV, cell phones, internet, etc., instead of health insurance, that is their choice. But you and Grape and I (along with the rest of the insured people) should not have to suffer the consequences of their poor choice.

    And what about the problem of the 11 million illegals. Do we have a responsibility to provide them health care? They have to have access to it but they have no right to receive it for free.
    We certainly don’t need to be providing yet another incentive for more people to come here illegally. Let’s take this just one step further. If a foreigner is visiting, do we have the responsibility of paying for them if they need health care? I think not!! Otherwise, you’d be saying that we ultimately have responsibility for paying for health care for all 6+ billion people alive on the earth today which is certainly ridiculous.

    So, the things the government can and should do are:
    1) Do something to resolve the illegal alien issue.
    2) Allow health insurers to compete nationwide (just as life insurers do) instead of only within states. This will improve competitiveness and also allow people to keep existing insurance when they move from state to state.
    3) Limit ridiculous and frivolous health-related lawsuits. This is the thing that will most dramatically bring down costs.

    There are probably other things that they could do but these are the most important.

  3. I definitely agree that we need the three reforms you pointed out, Ron. Well done! I think #2 is actually quite an innovative idea. Wonder how much it might really make a difference though… will have to see if there’s any research out there on that.

    Regarding the people that both of you point out who could afford health care coverage but choose instead to buy cheeseburgers and cell phones, they probably need to be ‘incentivized’ to do the right thing and insure themselves. We have laws that mandate car insurance for every licensed driver, and yet (as Grape astutely points out) we still pay for uninsured motorist coverage. So just mandating people to get insurance doesn’t completely solve the problem.

    Consider this: Maybe having everyone insured (more people paying into the payer system (insurance companies)) won’t really even solve the cost problem. Maybe insuring everyone isn’t the silver bullet that will resolve the cost issue. As Ron points out, other factors like rising malpractice insurance is also causing health care costs to rise. Maybe focusing on changing how we deliver and consume health care will do more to drive down cost than insurance will.

  4. I wish I knew more about the whole healthcare matter. I’ve been writing my representative and senators voicing opposition to the Obama healthcare plan mostly because it feels all wrong to keep spending money we don’t have. I don’t want to mortgage Nicholas’ future. With specific regard to healthcare, most are troubled by rising costs. I think this is partially due to frivolous lawsuits, but also more significantly impacted by having a 3rd party payor. There is not a transparent and competitive transaction taking place between providers and consumers of health care services. We pay our $25 copay, which doesn’t seem like much and the insurance company covers the rest. Do we get services we wouldn’t get if we were paying 100% out of pocket? Do the doctors have any incentive to charge less to get patients? No and no, the doctors just charge ridiculous amounts to guarantee they get the most possible from the insurance company. We need to minimize the impact of 3rd party payors by having more high deductible policies and we certainly shouldn’t make the government a 3rd party payor – talk about inefficiency. I don’t know exactly what the solution is, but just have an idea of what principles should be involved. There should be a requirement to buy health insurance if you make a certain amount. But at the end of the day, there are still those who can’t afford it. What do we do for them, I don’t know…I do think society would benefit as a whole from those folks being in better health. Maybe the rest of us do need to pay for them?

  5. that was ‘yes and no’ in answer to my questions. Maybe part of the question for those who might end up receiving healthcare for free under some system is what would be expected of them. They are the same ones who are already paying no taxes. Actually most receive money from the government instead (due to refundable tax credits). What prevents someone from just lingering at that level where they milk the system completely, while reaping all the other benefits of living in this country?

  6. A person can choose not to drive, and not pay auto insurance.
    But can a person choose not to have health insurance? and are you infringing on their rights if you require everyone to have health insurance?

  7. A little late to the discussion, but hopefully a point to validate Ron’s #3.

    Last month I spent sometime shadowing a Dr. for part of a class I was taking and the discussion of health care reform came up. As to be expected, he had a lot to say on the matter. What I thought was most interesting is what he said about malpractice insurance. He said that when he started practicing medicine 15 years ago, he was paying like $2,500 a year for malpractice insurance. Now he is paying over $75,000 and that is less than what he was paying like two years ago, without a similar increase in salary. He was very upfront in saying that he passed that rate right on to his patients, otherwise he couldn’t afford to practice medicine.

    Now, he lives pretty comfortably and he probably doesn’t need to make all that money, but on second thought, doesn’t he? Who goes into medicine? Pretty much the “best and the brightest” (with a few exceptions). Almost all significant breakthroughs in medicine in the last 50+ years have been Americans. They had incentives to be physicians and the results have been the breakthroughs we’ve had. How will the reform affect future health care? Will anyone be anxious to do research?

    Just some thoughts.

  8. For the auto insurance analogy to work, you’d have to say that anyone who chooses not to pay for health insurance also cannot be treated at the emergency room for free.

  9. Fair enough Mike, If we can do some of the other things to really lower the cost of health care many could afford insurance or pay cash on their bill. you just answered your own question-

    “What prevents someone from just lingering at that level where they milk the system completely, while reaping all the other benefits of living in this country?” – as long as someone keeps giving out free fish we will never learn to fish.

    government control, programs, and high taxes breed poverty and a welfare state.

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