Do You Really Have A Right To Free Healthcare?

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Do people have the right to free healthcare? That is a question that some on the political left, mostly coming from the camps of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, would say yes. If you’re coming from reality though, then you’d say no. The arguements are being waged back and forth these days, and this topic seems to be picking up steam. Obamacare has been predicted by many on the right to end in socialized healthcare, where it basically is free. Vermont, the state that Senator Sanders represents, was moving for a socialized system, but dropped plans earlier this year.

S0, do people have a right to free healthcare? First off, let’s answer this: is it a natural right? Natural rights were explained by Locke to be Life, Liberty, and Property. Many liberals try to claim that free healthcare falls under the Right to Life, and is thus a natural right. This would be wrong.

Free healthcare is a “positive” right. In order for this “right” to be fulfilled, others people must provide for the people claiming this right. In the case of “free healthcare”, the doctors and physicians and nurses providing the services would be forced to do it for those who were seeking care. This kind of “right” isn’t really possible, and are not compatible with real (aka negative) rights.

Healthcare is a good. We need to make this clear. Bill Flax, writing for RealClearMarkets, writes:

We don’t have a right to good health. We do have a right to live how best we know to improve our health, but we didn’t pop out of the womb with a divine guaranty of ease and comfort. Nor can the state offer such.

One person’s misfortune never constitutes society’s obligation. A problem aggravated by social programs is the entitlement attitudes they engender. That government somehow bears responsibility to remove the pain and hardship from life. Unfortunately, Americans have grown inured to statist “solutions” and now flock to politicians who promise Utopian fantasies.
Politicians may transform luxuries like advanced medical care into rights, but they can’t make healthcare free. They can filter it through an all powerful bureaucracy and disguise its high costs, but government cannot guaranty one’s treatment without confiscating their citizens’ property.
That last paragraph holds an important line. “…government cannot guaranty one’s treatment without confiscating their citizens’ property.” If you have the natural right to property, then to have the “right to free healthcare”, the society must be willing to give up it’s natural right to property. Only one of these two are natural, and since one is a positive right, depending on a certain group of people to sell their labor at lower prices than they would in a free market, and another group possibly including them to give up their natural right to property, the likelyhood of a “right to free healthcare” happening won’t come at a good price to many of the people in that society, and would not make for a good cost-benefit analysis.
What would be the costs to go to “free healthcare”? Since nothing in reality is really free, as everything has a cost to it, the costs here would likely be high. Speaking as a future dental student myself, the costs for me to become a doctor now are pretty high. I would need:
  • Undergraduate college
  • Graduate college
  • Dental school
  • Internship + Residency
  • Certification

These alone, are going to wind up being tens of thousands of dollars. I would know. My tuition for college as it is is 5 digits. And it’s easier now to get extra money in the form of scholarships and private grants and loans than later down the road, unless you’ve got really good credit. By the end of this road, I’m probably going to be in a bit of debt. I’m going to need to pay this all off eventually, and pushing these off won’t help. And I cannot forget Continuing Education, as I’d still be bound to doing that to keep my certification.

What the “free healthcare” would bring about is a system that basically tells doctors and physicians what they do with the human capital they acquired in medical school, and post-secondary training. It’s basically letting the controllers of that system, most likely government, control what procedures are done, by who, and to whom. Doctors and physicians, in essence, become servants of the state. They become slaves, and that’s not what I’m going to school for.
Many liberals will again make the call for basic minimum access to healthcare. Beyond again conscripting doctors and physicians (limited), this will still do them little good, and the costs for these operations will be passed onto the other patients that the doctors care for, and thus, their prices will probably rise, causing some to not be able to afford the care they had, and move onto the basic care that screwed them in the first place. These types of programs, at their core, mean to simply bring people down. Liberals will try to argue against this, but a look at LBJ’s Great Society programs will show this.
So, to wrap this up; do you have a right to healthcare, or free healthcare? No, not at all. You have the right to life, as that is a natural right, but that means that people have the control of their own lives. They cannot, under this, force someone to do something for them without their consent, or giving something to them of equivalent value (like money). Free healthcare is something that would only make things worse, as prices would only continue to go up, due to government price controls further hampering the market forces that already represent consumer demand and supply. Healthcare is something Americans need to take back, not only from the hands of government, but also from the hands of their employers too. It must be made personal again, and most importantly, we must lift the mandate that all must have insurance. Households can only afford so much, and making them pay much more for a service they didn’t have but also couldn’t afford before, doesn’t help them. It only worsens their conditions.
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4 thoughts on “Do You Really Have A Right To Free Healthcare?

  1. F. A. Hayek Loves Obamacare

    F. A. Hayek is one of conservatives’ superstar anti-socialist economists. A few years ago, you may have run into his philosophy rapped in the “Fear the Boom and Bust” video by EconStories on YouTube.

    His classic anti-socialist treatise was “The Road to Serfdom”. In chapter 9, called Security and Freedom, Hayek considers the implications of social insurance programs, and he clearly distinguishes them from socialist central planning. In fact, Hayek endorses the government’s role in providing the following:

    Welfare – “… there can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody.”

    Health Insurance – “Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance — where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks — the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”

    FEMA – “To the same category belongs also increase of security through the state’s rendering assistance to the victims of such ‘acts of God’ as earthquakes and floods.”

    Unemployment Insurance – “There is, finally, the supremely important problem of combating general fluctuations of economic activity and the recurrent waves of large-scale unemployment which accompany them.”

    Despite all the right-wing rhetoric, there is a clear distinction between social programs and socialism. Socialism is a centrally planned economy, where government owns the means of production and distribution of goods. When the Soviet Union experimented with socialism the result was long lines for simple daily necessities like toilet paper. Socialism simply cannot produce the necessary quality or quantity of goods and services.

    Social programs, like those listed above, are not socialism. And, even if you are a right-wing conservative, you can be for social programs without being for socialism.

    (Quotes above are from “The Road to Serfdom”, The University of Chicago Press 1944, 1972, 1994).

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    • Saying that Hayek would love Obamacare, while somewhat right, would be a stretch still. In the Politico article below, the writer notes the following:

      “How is it possible to endorse capitalism and redistribution at the same time? In a complex society, prosperity — indeed, survival — depends on people’s ability to coordinate their actions. Producers must be free to make more or less what consumers want. Capitalism works so well, in Hayek’s view, because it alone relies on prices to coordinate economic activity.

      Because free-market prices are determined by supply and demand, they convey information used by many individual buyers and sellers — which couldn’t possibly be held by any one mind. But, as Hayek argued, the price system conveys this information only if people are free to make their own decisions.”[3]

      That last part is where Hayek came in. Hayek believed that these types of programs could only function well if the people were able to make their own decisions. In the context of Obamacare, you have the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This boards job is to reform parts of Medicare. They’re tasked with trying to find solutions to reducing it’s costs. The problem with that is that it’s limited. The cuts it can make are in re-imbursements to providers [4]. For Medicare, there are already forms of price controls implemented [5]. The controlling of prices does not equal the freedom of people to make their own decisions, as it artificially sets prices above or below what the market would charge, and would thus fail to meet Hayek’s certification. This does not mean that people would charge the most outrageous amounts for operations without government intervention, but that the normal equilibrium of supply and demand, as set by the consumers and producers, is violated.

      For FEMA, there are criticisms to go around, even from the Hayekian perspective, that again deals with the freedom of people to make their own decisions.[6]

      As for the rest, I would recommend other economists on why these are bad idea’s, and actually harmful. Hayek was an Austrian, but his awards came before TRTS, mainly for his economic writings. A good economist I would recommend would be Henry Hazlitt (a good book from him is Economics In One Lesson, which would be useful in debating Hayek’s arguments) and Ludwig von Mises (who would clash with Hayek [7]).

      I’m not saying that you can’t be a conservative and support those. You certainly can. I’m saying that the thinking behind some of these would have Hayek raising his eyebrows. And even then, this doesn’t even consider the inefficiencies of government programs and bureaucrats (which Hazlitt does in his book). No, I couldn’t say I agree with Hayek on his thoughts on social programs.

      For links on this, see these:

      [1] https://mises.org/library/confidential-memo-hayeks-constitution-liberty
      [2] http://tomwoods.com/blog/would-hayek-have-supported-obamacare/
      [3] http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=01CA87A3-264C-4EE2-A41C-1AA81FF1AD6A
      [4] http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/01/obamacare-and-the-independent-payment-advisory-board-falling-short-of-real-medicare-reform
      [5] http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/17/1/72.full.pdf
      [6] http://faculty.citadel.edu/sobel/FEMA/FEMA.htm
      [7] https://mises.org/library/why-mises-and-not-hayek

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  2. Generally, we all benefit from market controlled pricing. Competition helps insure that prices are as low as is possible. But there are two areas where we have a problem.

    One is that whenever there is excess labor, wages can be arbitrarily forced below reasonable levels. Minimum wage laws help to assure that products of sufficient value are able to command a price that will support the labor that produces it.

    The other problem area is insurance. While insurance helps us manage risks of large financial losses due to accident, illness, or natural disasters it also reduces the consumer’s interest in getting the best price by comparison shopping. This is further complicated by the extreme differences in prices for exactly the same procedures among health care providers. And a third issue is that accidents and illness do not lend themselves to wise shopping practices, but rather require us to take what we can get because we need it immediately. Therefore some means of controlling excessive pricing and costs outside of normal comparison shopping is required, such as a national payment advisory board.

    However, I believe that board has yet to be implemented for the ACA due to Congress dragging their feet.

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