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Is Health Care a Right?

is healthcare a human right
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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

The political justification for more government intervention into America’s health care system is the claim that health care is a right. Proponents of the Affordable Care Act in the past made this claim. Current members of Congress pushing the Medicare for All Act also make the claim that health care is a right.

Let me start by saying that health care is not a right, at least as properly understood. But even if you accept that it is a right, it cannot be applied in the way it is being used in the current debate.

First, it is not a right if we use the past understanding of rights. The Declaration of Independence states that we have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But that doesn’t mean people have to give us life or make us happy. It is understood as a negative right. You have the right not to be killed (unless you are an unwanted, unborn child). You have the right to not have your liberties (like free speech) taken away from you.

These are what you might call negative rights. But the Left is now proposing what could be called positive rights. We supposedly have the right to housing, health care, maybe even the right to free college education. This is something fundamentally different.

Second, even if you accept that flawed view, you have a major problem. How do you have the right to something that is economically scarce? How does everyone have a right to kidney dialysis when we don’t have enough machines? How do we have a right to a doctor when there are more people who want a personal physician than there are doctors to go around?

Rejecting the idea that health care is a right doesn’t mean we should dismiss the importance of health care. It’s just the opposite. Trying to provide quality health care is so important it shouldn’t be left to bureaucrats working in an incompetent government agency.

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