Call/text: (617) 682-9697 | e: [email protected] | f: 617-391-3067

Health Care Rights Answers

Health care is not a right

Sally Pipes, 2020, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All, Pipes is the President & CEO, Pacific Research Institute .

This rhetoric presents a false choice. Health care is neither a right for the many nor a privilege for the few. It’s a good and a service, just like everything else in our market economy. SCARCITY CAN’T BE WISHED AWAY Scarcity is one of the fundamental concepts of economics. Societies have limited resources. They have to be apportioned somehow. Tradeoffs are inevitable. Chris Jacobs, 2019, writer @ The Federalist, The Case Against Single Payer, Kindle BookEstablishing a right to health care creates the prospect of infinite demand for care. But health care goods and services are necessarily scarce. There’s no way to create an unlimited supply to meet that potential demand. Northwestern University professor Craig Garthwaite points out that health care is not a public good whose consumption the government can regulate, like parks or clean air. “If I consume health care services, someone else can’t,” he said in an interview with Vox.6 By dressing health care up in the language of rights, single-payer advocates are really calling for health care to be free at the point of access. Dr. Adam Gaffney, the president of Physicians for a National Health Program, has said that making people pay for health care “is just a way of punishing the sick and the poor.” He points to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service as proof that free health care is not simply “pie-in-the-sky and unrealistic.”7 Economics is not a concern for those who maintain that there’s an individual right to health care.

No way to determine what people are entitled to

Sally Pipes, 2020, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All, Pipes is the President & CEO, Pacific Research Institute .

Determining criteria for positive rights, on the other hand, is tricky. What does a right to health care guarantee? Is it just a right to free medical care? Perhaps it’s a right to quality medical care, or efficient medical care. If so, which tradeoffs are we willing to make? The government can provide shoddy medical care to a lot of people quickly and cheaply. But that’s probably not what single-payer advocates have in mind. Look at how many questions arise as we try to establish a baseline for what we mean by a right to health care. These difficulties are in part why we don’t claim to have a “right” to other basic necessities. Imagine the debate that would ensue over a “right to food.” Does that mean a right not to go hungry? Maybe it’s a right to consume the necessary number of calories each day. If so, does it matter where those calories come from? It’s easier and cheaper to consume 2,000 calories at McDonald’s than at a farmer’s market. But that isn’t the healthiest option. The questions and complications are overwhelming and don’t come with easy answers. Similarly, rights presuppose a level of equality that cannot be achieved in health care. We can’t pay for a speedier trial or freer exercise of religion. Does a right to health care entitle everyone to seek treatment from the best doctors or at the best hospitals?  And to ensure equal protection of that right to health care, would the government have to ban people from paying extra for better treatment? Perhaps top-notch facilities would be prevented from offering innovative procedures—and instead compelled to offer a suite of government-sanctioned services. This puts the government in a bind as well. If there’s a $100,000 pill that can cure a group of patients, but the government can only afford to give it to half of them, what do we do? In countries with single-payer programs, equality often takes precedence over health. Nobody would get that pill. Pipes, Sally . False Premise, False Promise (p. 8). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

Right to health care undermines the rights of others

Sally Pipes, 2020, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All, Pipes is the President & CEO, Pacific Research Institute .

The right to health care may also push up against the rights of others. Negative rights basically require people to “live and let live.” Positive rights are more invasive. If everyone has a right to health care, the government could end up infringing on the rights of health care professionals. Can the government compel hospitals to take on more patients than they have beds to meet increased demand? Can it force doctors to log longer hours, work in subpar hospitals, or perform operations that go against their better judgment? The right to health care would also impose duties on every citizen. The U.S. Supreme Court famously found that the right to free speech “would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”12 Similarly, just because everyone has a right to travel does not mean they can careen down the interstate after consuming an entire bottle of scotch.13 If I have a right to health care, do I also have a duty to keep myself healthy? Do I waive my right to health care if I’m a smoker or if I’m obese? Would we be comfortable with the measures that officials in the United Kingdom have implemented to prohibit certain patients from having surgery unless they lose weight or quit smoking?14 Once the government is responsible for guaranteeing a right to health care, it has a plausible claim to micromanage what we eat, how much we exercise, and how we generally comport ourselves. Pipes, Sally . False Premise, False Promise (p. 9). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

Health care as a human right leads to rationing

Chris Jacobs, 2019, writer @ The Federalist, The Case Against Single Payer, Kindle Book

To make health care a human right, as Sen. Bernie Sanders frequently claims a single-payer system will do, the federal government will have to define that right. And by defining what health care individuals will receive, a single-payer system—especially one that prohibits private insurance outside the government system, as the House and Senate bills do—will also define what care individuals will not receive. As we have seen, by making health care a “human right,” a single-payer system will lead to  large increases in people using health care. The combination of 1) more insured patients, 2) more covered services, and 3) the abolition of cost-sharing for all health care services will cause demand to soar. How, then, can government accommodate all this new demand? In a word, it won’t. Instead, government bureaucrats will attempt to contain health care costs by restricting the supply of care provided. That rationing will take on several forms. In some cases, physicians will quit, or never enter medical school in the first place, reducing the available supply of care. In other cases, the global budget model introduced in the House’s single-payer bill will encourage hospitals to stint on care to meet their government-set spending targets.  In other cases, the government could outright deny treatments federal bureaucrats deem too expensive. In all cases, however, the limits on access to care will have very real consequences for patients, particularly elderly seniors with multiple chronic conditions. When coupled with the bill’s provisions on abortion, which allow for taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, single payer will end up abandoning some of our society’s most vulnerable individuals. Even single-payer supporters admit their legislation will ration health care.1 When the Mercatus Center released its study questioning the costs of a single-payer system, a writer for the socialist magazine Jacobin responded:  [The study] assumes utilization of health services will increase by 11 percent, but aggregate health service utilization is ultimately dependent on the capacity to provide services, meaning utilization could hit a hard limit below the level [the study] projects.2 This socialist commentator knows of which he speaks. Both the liberal Urban Institute and Rand Corporation assume that demand for health care will increase under a single-payer system, raising health-care spending—but that constraints on supply will prevent many people from accessing all the additional care they seek.3  Jacobs, Chris. The Case Against Single Payer . Republic Book Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Medicare for All doesn’t guarantee health care as a right

Chris Jacobs, 2019, writer @ The Federalist, The Case Against Single Payer, Kindle Book

It seems little surprise, then, that Sanders’s rhetoric about single payer notwithstanding, neither the House nor the Senate single-payer  bills actually make health care a right.4 Instead of guaranteeing the right to receive health care, they only guarantee the right to have that care paid for if Americans can find someone to provide it in the first place—a major catch Sanders never mentions.5

Conceptualizing health care as a right forces so much spending that it trades-off with other social responsibilities

Chris Jacobs, 2019, writer @ The Federalist, The Case Against Single Payer, Kindle Book

Finally, we also regard health as a social good. It is not in our nation’s own best interest to have a populace wracked and consumed by disease. From even the most cynical view, sick people do little to contribute to economic production and income taxes. A healthy workforce can produce more than a sick workforce. From a more generous point of view, few of us would disagree with the statement that suffering is bad and health is good. But when regarded as a social good, the question is not simply how much health care is in the best interests of the individual (that was our first moral perspective). Rather, the question becomes how much health care is in the best interests of society, given our limited resources and the welter of other good and services that are of value. For example, how much should we spend on health as opposed to education? As opposed to public housing? As opposed to law enforcement? As opposed to our physical infrastructure-roads, utilities, etc.?… A health care reform program that satisfies our rhetoric of health care as a moral right of the individual would presumably cover the Lakeberg twins. It would pay for liver and pancreas transplants. But such a program would devastate the economy and draw much needed funds away from other social goods such as schools, housing, roads, defense and job opportunities.

Health care is not a human right.

Barlow, Consultant Neurosurgeon, 1999 (Philip, “Health Care Is Not a Human Right”, British Medical Journal,, DOA 8/18/2017, DVOG *  WAVE ONE*)

A human right is a moral right of paramount importance applicable to every human being. There are several reasons why health care should not be considered a human right.

Firstly, health care is difficult to define. It clearly encompasses preventive care (for example, immunisation), public health measures, health promotion, and medical and surgical treatment of established illness. Is the so called human right to health care a right to basic provision of clean water and adequate food, or does everyone in the world have a right to organ transplantation, cosmetic surgery, infertility treatment, and the most expensive medicine? For something to count as a human right the minimum requirement should surely be that the right in question is capable of definition.

Secondly, all rights possessed by an individual imply a duty on the part of others. Thus the right to a fair trial imposes a duty on the prosecuting authority to be fair. On whom does the duty to provide health care to all the world’s citizens fall? Is it a duty on individual doctors, or hospital authorities, or governments, or only rich governments? It is difficult to see how any provision of benefits can be termed a human right (as opposed to a legal entitlement) when to meet such a requirement would impose an intolerable burden on others.

Thirdly, the philosophical basis of all human rights has always been shaky. Liberalism and humanism, the dominant philosophies of Western democracies, require human rights. Religion requires a God, but this is not in itself evidence of God’s existence. Most people can see some advantage in maintaining the concept of civil and political rights, but it is difficult to find any rational or utilitarian basis for viewing health care in the same way.

To propose that health care be considered a human right is not only wrong headed, it is unhelpful. Mature debate on the rationing and sharing of limited resources can hardly take place when citizens start from the premise that health care is their right, like a fair trial or the right to vote. I suspect that the proponents of the notion think that to claim health care as a human right adds some kind of weight or authority to the idea that health care, and by extension healthcare professionals, is important. A more humble approach would achieve more in the long run.

The right to health care is the right of access to health care, not the right to insurance coverage—health care is a commodity similar to food or clothing; people should have the right to purchase it at market cost.

Stark, Center for Health Care Policy Analyst, 2017 (Roger, MD, policy analyst for Washington Policy Center’s Center for Health Care, April 30, “Health Care Is Not a Right”, The Washington Times,, DOA 8/19/2017, DVOG *  WAVE ONE*)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words in the Declaration of Independence define the “rights” of American citizens. They do not include health care. Yet for over 100 years, some Americans have believed that health care is not only a right, but that the government should provide it and taxpayers should pay for it. If medical treatment is a right, then what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that your neighbors, through the government, are obligated to provide all health care for you? Does it mean that anyone can demand the government to pay for hospitalization, for prescription drugs, and for specialty treatments such as organ transplants? Does it mean that every American has a right to the skill and knowledge of all physicians and providers? These questions lead to other questions. How does society pay for health care for all? Who gets to decide who should receive health care and how much? Who gets to decide what the health care budget should be? Who should have the power to make health care decisions for us? Or rather than confront these issues, do proponents of health care as a right mean everyone should have health insurance? The problem with this belief is that simply having health insurance does not guarantee timely access to actual medical care. Every citizen of Canada has government-paid health insurance, but the long wait times for treatment, most notably for specialty care, would be unacceptable for Americans. Everyone can agree that health care is a necessity of life. So are food, shelter, and clothing. Yet no one is demanding universal “food care” or universal government housing. The critical issue is that people expect access to food, shelter, and clothing. Americans expect choices and competition when they shop for these necessities of life. The government exists to guarantee free-markets for Americans when they seek access to virtually any product, but especially access to food, shelter, and clothing. No one would expect society, through government, to pay for these necessities of life for everyone. If “food care” was controlled, paid for, and regulated by the government, we would have overutilization, fewer choices, and a limited supply. The private system of grocery stores and supermarkets guarantees access, choice, and competitive prices for everyone. The free-market system is efficient, voluntary, and fair. The critical point is utilizing the best mechanism to allow the greatest number of Americans access to health care. The Canadian single-payer system does not guarantee timely access. The American experience with the Veterans Administration hospital system, a comprehensive government-controlled, single-payer health care program, reveals unacceptable wait times and huge inefficiencies. Fundamentally, these systems ration health care by waiting lists and limited money. The quality of care can be variable. Because of budgetary constraints, the demand for health care is much greater than the supply in virtually every county with a government-controlled health care system. Even Medicare, essentially a single-payer plan, is not financially sustainable. Just like in all other economic activities, the free-market offers the best solution to provide the greatest access to health care and to control costs. People freely making their own health care decisions and using their own health care dollars would give Americans the best chance to utilize their “right” to access health care, with safety-net health programs provided for those who can’t afford it. At the end of the day, health care is an economic activity like any other, albeit with the most personal of interactions between patient and provider. Society should work toward putting patients in charge of their health care, reducing the role of government, and focusing on access, not health care as a supposed “right.”