Tom Gnewuch: Health care: right or privilege? |

Tom Gnewuch: Health care: right or privilege?

In a recent column, Morgan Liddick questioned the use of the word “right” in relation to human health. More properly, the question should be asked, “Is human health care a right or a privilege?”

If health care is a right of citizenship, then this has practical consequences. This means there will be a national health plan in which everyone participates with insurance payments based on ability to pay and in which everyone is assured of health care. This is the so-called single-payer plan favored by the Democrats but which was only partly realized due to political compromises with the Republicans.

If health care is a privilege, then this means that it must be earned like other things in life, such as houses, cars, boats, etc. It means having health savings accounts (HSA) with no taxation along with large deductibles. If you are poor or out of work it means a return to emergency room medicine or the help of relatives and friends. In short, this is the approach favored by Republicans.

Neither approach solves the ever expanding costs of health care. The “right” approach could be modified to having a series of graduated rights based on ability to pay but with an absolute floor of benefits. If you are out of work you would be assured of a basic level of care to be determined by the medical community. Medicare could be given the power to negotiate with the drug companies for lower drug costs.

I prefer the single-payer plan because it puts the United States in line with other industrialized nations. Furthermore, it follows the biblical call to be your brother’s keeper.

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