Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Health care is a right!

Yes, you heard Obama say it in the debate last night. Believe it. And as Sullivan says, Know hope.


Acrobat said...

And who/what clearly bears the corresponding responsibility for my healthcare? How about my neighbor in Mexico? Do I also bear any financial or behavioral responsibility re my own health? I would like to see universal healthcare, but this is a bad time to pay for it, and I don't find that rights labels aid the analysis.

Dan Chong said...

Yes, all rights lead to duties. Most people think of it as a concentric circle of duties -- you have duties to yourself and to the people around you, the state has duties to you, and if the state is unable, then the international community has duties. Why is it so problematic that a right doesn't lead to a single, unitary duty?

The answer to "how rights help the analysis" comes in your own comment. You automatically identified a "right" to healthcare as "universal" access. That's one of the main linguistic advantages of a "right" vs. a "privilege" or a "responsiblity" (to whom? for what?). If it's a right, everyone should have access. Forty million people without it, in the richest country in the world, is unacceptable.

For me, the financial crisis is exactly the time to move toward universal healthcare, because it's the people with poor healthcare who will also be suffering the most economically. And since the US spends a ridiculous 16% or so of GDP on healthcare (I don't have the exact figure on me), with thoroughly mediocre results, we could conceivably provide decent universal health care without any net economic costs to individuals.

Of course I understand that the issue is less urgent in the US than it is in Mexico, or less developed countries. As McCain's advisors have pointed out, at least we have the Emergency Room here.