I was going to take the day off from blogging, but as I was reading the latest edition of American Medical News, an article caught my eye. The article noted how West Virginia is trying to reign in its health care costs by offering benefits to those who adopt healthier lifestyles … and by limiting benefits to those who do not adopt healthier lifestyles.
The map accompanying the article was eye-opening. States provide free medical care for anywhere from 9% to 35% of their populations. New York and California provide Medicaid services to between 25 and 30% of their populations, or (as of 2005) at least 4.8 million and 9.0 million people, respectively.
I don’t believe that healthcare is a “right.” Instead, I believe that people should look upon good health and the ability to receive health care as a privilege. I won’t argue the point because I don’t think that I can do better at illustrating it than other bloggers have done. For example, see Shadowfax, Maggie Mahar, and Kim at Emergiblog.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that healthcare is a right. Pretend that there is a microscopic footnote in the Declaration of Independence that refers to the back of the document and clearly states that, along with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” healthcare is a right to every citizen in this country.
Even the rights that we have been afforded by our forefathers are not absolute.
We have a right to life. We don’t have a right to a life in a $12 million mansion at the expense of the general public. If we murder someone, even our right to an existence on the planet may be forfeited.
We have a right to liberty, but we may lose our liberty if we commit a felony.
Nor do we have the right to a pursuit of happiness if that pursuit involves illegal acts such as drug trafficking, robbery, or rape. Even if our pursuit of happiness is not illegal, we are afforded the right to pursue happiness, not to force someone to make us happy.
The Bill of Rights is a general framework of “rights” each citizen in this country is afforded. In each case, there are exceptions to those rights. We have the right to free speech, but we do not have the right to “shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” We have the right to bear arms, but only if we comply with state laws. We have the right to a trial by jury – unless we are in Tax Court or another court in which there are no juries. We have the right to vote provided that we are not felons and have properly registered to vote.
I may be mistaken, and correct me if I am wrong, but each “right” we have in this country has limitations. There is no “right” in our country that is absolute.
When people in this country abuse drugs, abuse alcohol, smoke cigarettes, eat Bacon McBypass burgers, fail to exercise, refuse to take their medications, and engage in unhealthy lifestyles, should those people still be afforded an absolute “right” to health care?
If health care is going to be available to everyone in this country, we are going to have to become comfortable with the notion that even if health care is a “right,” it is not an absolute right. Why should we treat the “right” to healthcare differently than any other “right” in this country?
Those who abuse their “right” to health care will have their “right” limited. West Virginia is taking a first step in this direction.
A sign of things to come …