September 30, 2009

Today's inbox: Health care is not a right

In a Sept. 29 letter, reader Laura Linn asserts that all persons should have a right to health care. My response is an emphatic “No,” though not for the nasty reasons Linn assigns to those of us who disagree with her.

If health care were a right, then the public would be legally or constitutionally obligated to provide it regardless of cost. Two things are wrong with that: First, it would be grossly unjust; and second, it would be financially ruinous.

Health care as a right is unjust because it would transfer much of the cost of providing that care from the sick, including those whose health is impaired because of their own foolish choices, to healthy people who bear no responsibility at all for others’ illnesses. Linn may think it’s unfair for sick people to bear such high costs, but it’s a lot more unfair to stick innocent third parties with the bills. 

Furthermore, if public money is spent, there ought to be a public benefit. The benefits to the individuals whose health care costs are subsidized are obvious. But where is the benefit to the public? Especially in cases of incurable illness, no public benefit is apparent.

Medicare and Medicaid are financial disasters precisely because they are entitlements. Making health care a right would accelerate the financial implosion of the health care system because all health insurance would use the same irresponsible practices that ruined Medicare and Medicaid.

Linn’s selfish attitude presumes that healthy people should be forced to bail out the sick. I much prefer a health care system that works acceptably for most people, even if some are left out, than a system that works equally poorly for everyone.

— Lyle D Horman, Pella