A "RIGHT" TO HEALTH CARE?

June 29, 2007

Medical care can be as essential to survival as food.  But does it follow that people have a right to medical care?  Even if Congress created a legally enforceable right to health care, the debate would not and could not end there, says Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Many problems would still remain, says Cannon:

  • Defining the scope of that right would be arduous; with the wide variety of tests and treatments, someone must decide where the right to health care ends lest the nation be bankrupted.
  • In addition, answering the question of who pays will be difficult; by definition, a right to health care could not be conditioned on ability to pay -- delivering on that right would require additional taxes proportionate to the scope of that right.

Further:

  • As a result of universal care, patients would demand far more medical care because additional consumption would cost them little; higher tax rates would discourage work and productivity, yielding less economic growth and wealth.
  • Another difficulty is how to deliver all this medical care -- declaring health care to be a right does nothing to solve the problem of getting the right resources to the right place at the right time.

Finally, if health care really were a fundamental human right, Americans presumably would have no greater right to medical care than Indians or Haitians, says Cannon.  If we truly believe that everyone has an equal right to health care, we would have to tax Americans to provide medical care to nearly every nation in the world.

Source: Michael F. Cannon, "A "Right" to Health Care?" National Review, June 29, 2007.

 

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