The American system as organized under the Constitution and Bill of Rights defines a set of “negative rights.” Rather than being a bad thing, what negative rights are are things that the government *can’t* do to you. Freedom of the press, religion, right to bear arms, freedom from unreasonable search & seizure… these aren’t things given to you, but rather things the government can’t do to you or take from you.
But it has become a popular mantra over the last generation or so that “health care is a right.” Now, if the proposed Constitutional amendment actually said something along the lines of “the people have the right to pursue whatever health care they want without interference from the government,” hey, I’m right there with ya. You want to go in for the most bleeding-edge gene therapy or stem cell treatment? Kudos. You want to put your faith in homeopathy? Great, that means your stuff will soon be available at an estate sale.
But what too many people seem to think is that “health care is a right”means you have the right to demand goods and services, free of charge. This would be something of a first. It would also be a disaster for the country. Consider:
This 2-year-old has heterotaxy syndrome, which is basically just about the craziest condition you can think of. Five spleens, two left lungs, a malformed heart and stomach, liver, gallbladder and heart are all in the wrong place. Basically, this kid is someone you point at when someone confidently tells you that “God doesn’t make mistakes,” because whatever god was responsible for assembling this kid apparently had a bit too much of the sacramental booze. With that litany of structural flaws, it’s no surprise that the kid has had quite a number of major surgeries and requires a whole lot of the very latest in Big Pharmas products. And that sort of stuff *costs.* The latest bill covering the period of Feb. 21 to March 7, ran to $231K. Two weeks of “room and board” in the hospital alone cost $22,500. Go ahead and try to justify *that.*
Now, if Health Care Really Was A Right, then this kid would have the right to access all this, without question or interference, paid for by the taxpayer. But here’s the thing: if it’s a “right,” then *everyone* would have the same right to access the same sort of expense. Now obviously the vast majority of people don’t have anywhere near the medical needs this kid has. But that basically doesn’t matter when it comes to rights. Everyone’s rights are (or at least theoretically) are the same as everyone elses. Spending a million dollars a year for one citizen means that every other citizen has the same right to a million dollars a year of taxpayer funding.
Problems like this can be approached two ways: emotionally and practically. The emotional approach is what we’re getting… and it’s all that will really be permitted. From the above example, we get this quote from the mother of the sick child:
“A lifetime cap on benefits is the same as saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not worth keeping alive anymore. You’re just too expensive'”
Now, if you’re a mother you are supposed to use every weapon in your arsenal to make sure that your child is safe. Lie, cheat, steal, turn on the waterworks to get everyone around you to drop what they are doing and provide for the benefit of your child at the expense of their own. It is entirely understandable, and well in line with evolutionary biology. But that’s a poor basis upon which to build a foundation of public policy.
The other approach, the practical one, basically comes down to a single word:
Because sometimes you *are* too expensive and not worth keeping alive anymore. For example: let’s say that tomorrow MegaPharmaCorp announce that they have a cure for diabetes, obesity and heart disease. These are major health problems… but if Health Care Is A Right, then every American with diabetes, obesity or a bad ticker has the right to have the government provide them the cure. But what if MegaPharmaCorp can only produce enough of the cure for 10,000 people per year, when something along the lines of 100,000,000 Americans need it? What is a right if only 0.01% of the population can even dream of accessing it? Alternatively: what if MegaPharmaCorp can produce an arbitrarily large number of the cures, but at $5,000,000 a pop? That would be a program costing half a quadrillion dollars. With a GDP of about $17 trillion, this program would consume the *entirety* of the US economy for a period of about 29 years, by which no doubt new health concerns will have arisen… say, explosive ass cancer that came about due to an unforeseen interaction between the diabetes cure and EM radiation given off by solar panels.
The difficulty here is that this is a matter of politics, and politics works on emotion, not logic. Anyone proposing to use a triage system to determine who gets taxpayer funded healthcare and who doesn’t will be accused of being heartless, or a monster, a Nazi, anti-child, whatever. I’ve no doubt that right now Certain Readers are turning red and getting ready to bang out angry, unthinking insults in the comments section.