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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Health Care--a right or a privelege?

Does every American citizen have a right to health care? How about "affordable health care?"

It's tricky, this question of rights. I would like everyone to have enough food, but everyone doesn't have a right to enough food. Or enough sleep. Or love...

Soon after 9/11, Mayor Giuliani of New York City said that every American has a right to freedom from fear. No, I think, they do not.

Traditionally, as a country, we have made laws that prohibit the government taking away our individual self determination, and placing strict controls on the ways in which our self determination can be restricted in cases of law breaking or conflict. We have also developed institutions by which we care for each others' needs, guarding against letting those who are vulnerable die of poverty.

As a health care provider, I balk at the idea that every citizen has a right to what I produce. It's kind of like telling a dairy owner that everyone has a right to cheese. Nevertheless, as a not-abjectly-poor country, it is consistent with other safety nets we have created, to ensure that health care is available to everyone who needs it. In addition to issues of compassion, provision of universal health care makes business sense.

The present system, if it can be called that, provides expensive health care to some people, and is paid for at least partly by expensive insurance which increases the expense of the care by being ridiculously complex. The expensive insurance is paid for by employers, at least in part, and is part of what makes them competitive for good employees. They are cornered into buying the expensive insurance if they wish to do effective business. Our country lives or dies on its ability to be economically successful, which means that a health care system that strangles business, as it is doing, strangles the US of A.

Compassion drives many of us, but it need not drive the push for reform and universal health care. Health care does not need to be a right in order for it to be something that we, as a nation, agree to provide for all of our citizens.

I would love to see legislation that pushes us in the direction of smarter and more efficient health care delivery. But even if we don't get what I want, we need, at the very least, to reform the way in which health care is paid for provide adequate and affordable coverage to everybody.

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