More on Obamacare

My last post–The Supreme Court on Obamacare–generated an interesting three-way conversation involving Aliza, GB77 and Arthur W. Allow me to follow-up, but pardon me if I get too philosophical…I still hold to my original contention; Obamacare is really about wealth redistribution. But there are two deeper questions that must be answered.

Is one born with a “right to healthcare” regardless of one’s ability to pay for it? Most in favor of an Obamacare or a single-payer approach (in the long run these are one and the same) answer in the affirmative, which leads to a second question. Why? Most who answer yes to the previous question invoke a moral argument here. It just seems wrong that some people suffer with a physical ailment because they don’t have insurance or enough money to purchase treatment while others own big-screen TVs and take vacations. In a moral society, it seems like the rich should be able to pay “a little more” to provide healthcare for everyone. If you buy this line of reasoning, then you have two major quandaries.

First, why should the most productive in society be charged with paying for the healthcare needs of everyone else? Perhaps we should confiscate their wealth simply because they have it and we can. But even if you accept this gross violation of property rights, shouldn’t those in need to coverage be required to contribute all that they can before others in society are required to contribute? For example, what would be wrong with a law that prohibited anyone receiving government assistance for healthcare (or anything else, for that matter) from owning a smartphone, an air conditioner, or a car worth more than $2500? Should they be permitted to take a vacation or purchase cable TV while others are paying for their healthcare? If this sounds crass to you, then why are you more comfortable with requiring that someone else pay the bill instead?

Second, why should the rich only have to pay for other Americans without healthcare? Shouldn’t the child from Guatemala or the elderly lady from Thailand be entitled to the same level of care? It’s not their fault that they were born in another country. Needless to say, even massive taxation in the U.S.–across the upper, middle, and even working classes–would not be sufficient to provide everyone in the developing world with anything close to what we have come to expect as quality medical care.

My point here is simple. Healthcare requires tough choices, and simply demanding coverage for everyone because the idea sounds good ignores this reality. In the end, the only moral position is that individuals should be free to live their lives as they wish, but also limited to the healthcare they are willing and able to pay for. A caring society like ours always chips in with charity, but that should be left to the private sector. Wealth redistribution to pay for healthcare is theft and immoral by definition.

15 thoughts on “More on Obamacare

  1. It would be nice if health care was cheap but it’s not. Somebody has to pay for it. I pay about 7500 for my family and I just can’t afford more. If 39 million people are going to get it from Obamacare then we better start training doctors and printing more money.

  2. Great points from the morality perspective Dr. Parnell. Obamacare makes no sense morally or economically. The cost is high for fundamental economic reasons. The price of medical care and insurance gets driven up when someone else is paying. It is simple – the more we subsidize and insulate people from the true costs, the more will be demanded causing costs to escalate. Add on a bunch of uneeded mandates and you have yourself a $7,500 annual bill. If we had more skin in the game via free market solutions instead of more third party payment and subsidies, costs would go down.

  3. Healthcare is a human right. It was recognized by the United Nation Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25 (1) reads:” Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”.
    John Locke defines the right to life as a natural right. I think that access to healthcare is related to the right to life, since it effects directly the quality of life and the ability to prolong life.
    What about the “pursuit of Happiness”? How can someone who is chronically ill, but cannot afford treating it, fulfills this inalienable right? Access to healthcare is a right that should be guaranteed by the state, as part of the social contract between individuals and the government.

  4. The UN doesn’t create rights by decree. Locke is correct about the right to life. It’s a natural right because nobody should take it away without just cause (murder). But your QUALITY of life is not a right. It’s up to you and nobody else has to pay for it. And anyone can “pursue happiness” regardless of illness. It might be more difficult to pursue if you have a chronic condition but the right of pursuit doesn’t mean that someone else has to pave the way for you.

    Freedom means that you can pursue your own direction in life and you won’t be required to provide for others. It doesn’t mean that society will give you what you think you need because that conflicts with the freedom of others! Don’t you realize that your RIGHT to healthcare obligates someone else to provide it?

  5. Good to see everyone again. John’s arguments makes sense except that we already have universal health care: for seniors (Medicare), indigents (Medicaid), children (SCHIP), military, active duty and retired, Federal workers, prisoners and I’m sure others. I didn’t see a vote this week to repeal any of these. My arguments are financial, not philosophical. Our government is broke. We can’t afford Affordable Care. Neither can we afford Medicare which is in the hole almost $500 billion per year, after premiums and co-pays. But it is the law. Nothing is being done about it, not even much in the way of discussion. This government doesn’t fix problems, it only creates them. Medicare pales in comparison to what will happen with Obamacare.

  6. John Rawls talks about two principles. The first one is the liberty principle. The second one is the equality principle, which view justice as fairness and argues that social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they will be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society.

  7. It’s not just about Obamacare and Medicare but what the government’s involvement in health care has already brought us to. This blog describes a recent experience my wife and I had with the system.

  8. What a story, Arthur W. The government already runs half the system. It will only get worse. Hey Aliza, the least advantaged members of society are usually the ones who are the least productive. Nobody will work hard to get ahead if their rewards will be redistributed to the “least advantaged” who don’t work as hard. When the most productive in society work less, the economy falls apart. This is the lesson of the USSR!

  9. Arthur, I’m sorry to hear about the bad experience you and your wife had to go through. I’m glad that your wife is back home now and doing well.

  10. Thanks Commodore and Aliza. I thought giving a patient perspective might generate some thought. We have had Medicare for 30 plus years. It gets bigger as the population ages. Latest estimates are about $500 billion per year to the taxpayer. That’s over and above premiums, co-pays and payroll taxes. The same providers will be in place with Obamacare. Eventually it will all give way to single payer, like John says. Because the politicians lack the courage to stop it and the voters don’t insist on it.

  11. Rights are general; not specific. They come from the Creator; not man or government. One of the many flaws in our public education system is that people don’t understand “rights” and the Constitution, because Civics is not adequately and accurately taught anymore. The primary concern of the authors of the Constitution was to ensure that we didn’t recreate the same system of government that lead to the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence. The fundamental task of the Constitution is to LIMIT the government’s ability to infringe on or limit individual liberty. Everything else is left to the individual. We have the right to be free from a government that attempts to detract from Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The manner in which we achieve those ends is left entirely up to us as individuals and the outcomes are NOT guaranteed. So, we do not have a “right” to healthcare. We have a right to pursue, obtain and secure healthcare through whatever means we, as individuals, choose to and are able to achieve it.

    Rights are often misunderstood to be without limit; but they are not. For instance, I have a right to liberty, which includes freedom of speech, religion, etc. However, the manner in which I pursue liberty is not without bounds. My freedom of speech does not allow me to enter a crowded theater and yell “fire” when there is no fire. My freedom to assemble is a right as long as I apply for the proper permits and peacefully assemble and submit to civil authority. My right to exercise freedom of religion is restricted such that I cannot sacrifice virgins, kill those of another faith or violate health codes by slaughtering sacrificial chickens in the exercise of that right. My liberty and pursuit of happiness are limited with regards to driving. I may have the right to pursue happiness by acquiring a Mercedes, but it is limited by my ability to obtain a driver’s license, have the minimum insurance, pay for gas, and, oh by the way, be able to AFFORD the Mercedes; not have someone else pay for it. Just because I frame my pursuit of happiness in terms of being able to drive, doesn’t mean that I get to achieve that end unless I comply with the conditions of car ownership.

    Healthcare falls under the same logical and moral interpretations of the Constitution. My rights are general and come from the Creator; NOT the government. The manner in which I exercise my rights are limited, finite, and totally up to me; not anyone else. I would like to have access to every possible medical treatment that is necessary for me, but I DO NOT have a “right”.

    Finally, the argument over healthcare has shifted away from the true problem at hand. Most, including my self, would argue that Americans (i.e., lawful citizens; not everyone that just happens to be on American soil) should enjoy the best medical treatment; however, the manner in which that treatment is provided for is the crux of the matter. The government take over of healthcare is flawed at the core concept of individual liberty. It does not enable individual liberty; it restricts it. And, that is exactly what the Framers attempted to avoid through the Constitution.

  12. If the government should pay for healthcare because it is a right, then why shouldn’t the government buy me a gun? The second amendment protects that right, doesn’t it? What’s the difference?

  13. I actually think that you don’t need a gun. That’s what the law forces are for – to protect us. That’s part of the social contract.

  14. battler88 – that’s exactly the point. The government gives you the right to keep and bear arms, provided you meet certain requirements. The right is general; it does not specifically give you the right to own a specific gun or to provide that gun for you. Your post is point on.

  15. Aliza – the beauty of the American system is that neither you or anyone else, including the government, gets to decide what I “need”. The Constitution simply says that I have the right to keep and bear arms. It is up to me, without interference from the government, to determine how I act on that right. Without exception in the history of the world, no nation whose citizenry has surrendered their right to bear arms has ever remained free. Every instance, present and past, where the government has restricted a nation’s people from owning a weapon has resulted in tyranny and oppression. You don’t “need” healthcare either; it is a benefit for those that seek to obtain it and make choices and sacrifices to get the things they deem to be necessities for themselves.

    I don’t often recommend books, because they are skewed one way or the other. But I highly recommend that everyone read “The 5,000 Year Leap…the 28 Principles of Liberty” by Skousen. A non-partisan account of the creation of the American system and the foundational beliefs of the Founders. I have a copy if you need one.

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