The Corner

Is Health Care a Right? Only in a Sense.

Among the e-mails I received prompted by “Barack Obama’s America” was this paragraph:

You also seem to ignore in healthcare what we need to do to insure that all our citizens have access to healthcare. Do you believe that healthcare is a right and that we as a people need to come up with a system [t]o insure that right? If you look at other countries, are there systems that deliver better healthcare to a higher percentage of people? If there are, shouldn’t we try to change our system rather than insist that we follow an ideology that has not worked? I think that most Americans are pragmatist and will vote for change if they see that the current system does not work.

“The current system does not work,” compared to what? In my brief piece, I kept in mind the experience of the Canadian health system and the British health service. The criticisms I listed of universal health care are based there.

I do believe that healthcare is a right, in the sense that free speech is a right; no one can take that right away from you. On the other hand, no one else has to build an auditorium for you, or publish a newspaper for you so that you can exercise your right to free speech. Treating health care as a right that others have the duty to supply for you has a great many ill effects. Universal health care sounds good as a dream, but in actual practice it has a great many deficiencies — besides there is always the danger that everybody will be mandated to have but one choice in medical care, supplied by the government.


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