Health Care is a Right.

Yesterday’s post generated quite a bit of interest, and the arguments on both sides have been good (see comments). I’d like to extend the conversation a little bit more in today’s post . . .

Health Care is the Right of All Americans, Just Like Education.

Wait. Hold on. Is education a right? The answer is an undeniable “yes”. Education is a right affirmed by every state in the country, and every citizen is required to attend a public or private school. Mandatory schooling wasn’t provided by the constitution, nor was it invented by our founding fathers. A free and public education for every child in America didn’t happen until the early 20th century. It was a government response to an ineffective system in which only the wealthy could afford an education. While today’s public school system needs lots of modernization and reform, the national impact of mandatory schooling has been overwhelmingly successful for the better part of a century. Even the worst schools in America offer a comparative advantage to no school at all.

Since the creation of the public school system, our nation has expanded educational opportunities to include public high school and public universities. We’ve also seen the mutual benefit between public schools and private schools: each helps the other through free-market competition, innovation, and efficiency. The return on our investment is undeniable. In short, our national education system has been the central foundation for a prepared workforce ready to contribute to the national good in both public and private endeavors.

I would argue that if I have a right to be taught by a teacher, then I also have the right to be fixed by a doctor. Granted, that’s not how it is in our current system, so it sounds a little idealistic, but that’s how it should be. There was also a time when our nation couldn’t foresee how it could affirm the right to provide a teacher for every child, but we managed to do it.  Check out this selection from “A History of Public Education“:

Until the 1840s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people. Reformers who wanted all children to gain the benefits of education opposed this.  The common-school reformers argued for the case on the belief that common schooling could create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty. As a result of their efforts, free public education at the elementary level was available for all American children by the end of the 19th century. Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1852, followed by New York in 1853. By 1918 all states had passed laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school.

Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?

Should We Bankrupt Our Nation to Affirm a “Right”?

Conservatives have pointed out that the cost of a national health care plan would be astronomical. They are right, but what they fail to mention is that the current system is even more expensive that the one proposed by President Obama.

Currently, health care costs are rising three times faster than income levels. Within ten years, the cost of health care in America is guaranteed to double. Sixty percent of bankruptcies are a direct result of health care costs, and eighty percent of those who declare bankruptcy for medical reasons already had insurance. If we continue with the status quo, health care costs will bankrupt our nation. 

The plan proposed by President Obama is expensive, but it’s less expensive than doing nothing. His plan is fairly straightforward: provide a public option for health insurance that will drive down the costs of private insurance. Those who choose the public option will receive basic coverage, those who elect to keep their private insurance may do so. Just as citizens now have the choice to send their children to public or private schools, so can citizens choose public or private insurance. And many of the benefits for the the public/private plans are the same as the benefits for public/private schools: the public schools drive down the cost of private schools, and the private schools force public schools to be more accountable and efficient (even more so with NCLB).

Naturally, there are skeptics who point to early provisions that appear to create nightmare scenarios: hefty fines for small businesses, fines for switching insurance plans, the elimination of private insurance, and a host of other fine-print disasters.  Others point to the CBO estimates of long-term costs. Most of these claims are flatly untrue, with no basis in reality. Others are still being debated, proposed, fixed, or adjusted by both parties. Still others may be of actual concern. The ink has barely dried on the first draft of the legislation, and there is much to be debated, amended, and discussed. I agree with conservatives that this legislation deserves to see the light of day and not be rushed through. I hope that the Democrats give this ample time to marinate and generate public discussion.

As a closing thought, I’d like to let my readers know that the Republicans have offered their version of a health care plan, titled the “The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009.” The plan eliminates tax breaks for employers who provide health coverage to their workers, and offers a $5,710 tax cut to families and a $2,290 cut to individuals to help them pay for health insurance coverage. Thanks for the coupon, chumps!

I invite readers, especially those who disagree with Obama’s plan to post comments with specific links to specific details that worry them the most. I’ll do my best to research the concern and either change my mind, prove you wrong, or offer to agree to disagree. Similarly, I invite those who agree with Obama’s plan to submit links to instances where the Republicans have offered misinformation.

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4 responses to “Health Care is a Right.

  1. definitely do reform carefully and with proper deliberation, and the President should be prepared for quite a few tweaks as it goes through Congress… IMO the only way to make a government plan remotely plausible is to block it from getting subsidies or perhaps do some kind of Medicare expansion/reimbursement reform… otherwise I think we’re going to be in for lots of reports of inefficiencies and other problems before too long as there simply won’t be real accountability

  2. This is an interesting article. A recent study links rising health care costs to job losses:
    http://www.businessweek.com/blogs/money_politics/archives/2009/07/study_links_ris.html

  3. Not too much in jest, the two things I fear most about this health care debate are Reid and Pelosi.

    1) I think, Josh, that one has to differentiate between health care costing Americans more and government spending. We as individuals may be spending less under some not yet well defined Obama plan but from everything I read there has been little effort to fund this entitlement. The interest on our debt continues to grow as a percentage of total debt and this hurts all of us.

    2) According to Mayo Clinic there is almost nothing in the current legislation that reduces costs either to the government or to individuals.

    3) I think bad legislation is worse the no legislation but agree with Obama’s principles. Lets take our time and get near right. I admit that getting anything right out of Congress, no matter who is in charge, may be near impossible, but doing nothing is just as bad.

  4. Some of you seem to think that paying health insurance is not a big deal. Two years ago I was literally paying $885.00 per month for coverage. It was tough but it beat paying for two joint replacements at about $40,000 each.

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