In their second debate held on Tuesday, Oct. 7, Senators Obama and McCain went back and forth on health care.
When asked how he would characterize health care coverage, McCain responded that it is a responsibility. In other words, individuals have a responsibility to provide their own health care coverage.
In contrast, Obama chose to characterize health care as a right.
In isolation, that assertion is not so remarkable. Many people characterize access to health care as a right, sometimes in line with an inalienable right. Others characterize it as an entitlement, such as with Medicare or Medicaid.
Regardless of whether one agrees with Obama’s characterization of health care as a right, surely all reasonable minded people can understand that he flatly contradicted himself by admitting that he wants to fine people who do not obtain health care coverage, especially for children (although he never specified the amount of the fine).
Obama’s system is basically a pay or pay option. Pay the health plan or pay the government. And given that choice, their theory is that most people will go ahead and pay for coverage under a health plan.
But what many people are missing is that Obama is effectively supporting a plan that will penalize people, by fining them, for opting not to exercise their “right” — using the term he chose to use to characterize health care.
Let’s look at some other traditional rights. Saluting the flag, for example — that’s something we all have the right to do — or not do. But what if the government were to fine people for choosing not to salute the flag?
What about the right to practice one’s religion? What if the government were to impose fines against people who opted not to exercise that right?
Hopefully you can see where I am going with this. Health care is not a right. Perhaps it should be, but it isn’t.
McCain is the more correct of the two — health care is a responsibility. People have a responsibility to provide for their own health care, but should they choose not to do so, they should not be fined by the government.
THAT is their right — the right to choose not to provide their own health care.
Which leads us full circle to the bigger question — should health care become a right? Because if it truly is a right, then no one would have the option to opt out. It would be provided to all, paid for by the populace.
(Did that last statement sound a little too socialistic for you?)
For an interesting, in-depth discussion on this topic, see this piece by Maggie Mahar
C. Dean Richard, JD, MSBA
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