Is Health Care a Human Right?

Is Health Care a Human Right?

Democrats are using the slogan “health care is a human right” to try to gain populist support for their various health care proposals. I disagree.

First, however, I fully agree that when someone is hurt or sick, as compassionate people, we need to provide some health care to anyone, regardless of whether they have health insurance or financial condition. Emergency rooms are required to provide that. [1]

And, I acknowledge that health care is neither equally accessible nor equally affordable.

But, a “human right” implies that someone is entitled to that right regardless of their own responsibility for their condition. As mentioned in my blog post The Way Forward With Health Care, many people simply do not take care of themselves, which cause health problems. For example, a disturbingly high percentage of people with Type 2 Diabetes are obese. “Studies have shown that becoming overweight is a major risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes. Today, roughly 30 percent of overweight people have the disease, and 85 percent of diabetics are overweight.” Obesity? Diabetes? We’ve been set up from the Harvard Gazette.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a complex illness, so it’s hard to definitively say there’s a direct cause of it. Instead, a myriad of factors can contribute to a T2D diagnosis. Lifestyle factors such as a poor high-calorie diet of processed and junk foods, obesity, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, and genetics are commonly linked to a diabetes diagnosis. However, it’s important to know type 2 diabetes is not limited to people who are obese or eat an unhealthy diet. It can affect people of all sizes and backgrounds.”

30.3 million people have diabetes, 23.1 million have been diagnosed and 7.2 million have been undiagnosed, and type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases.” Source: Diabetes: Causes, Risks, and Symptoms

Although there's no cure for type 2 diabetes, studies show it's possible for some people to reverse it. Through diet changes and weight loss, you may be able to reach and hold normal blood sugar levels without medication.” Source: Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

Or, take the case of lung cancer and smoking. “It has been estimated that active smoking is responsible for close to 90 percent of lung cancer cases …” Lung Cancer Fact Sheet | American Lung Association

It is a fair question to ask, “To what extent should people be accountable to their results? To what extent should the rest of society shoulder the burden of the increased health care costs caused by self-destructive behavior?”

With most “rights” there are accompanying “responsibilities”. When the slogan of “health care is a human right” it implies that health care is an entitlement which one gets simply for being human. That is not fair to those who do take care of themselves.

This slogan completely avoids the question of “To what extent of health care is one entitled?” Does this mean to the minimal extent one is entitled to in an emergency room? If so, Americans are already entitled to that. (and illegal aliens (oh, yea, “undocumented persons”) as well, as the emergency rooms cannot ask). If beyond that, how far? Treatment that would extend life an hour? A day? A month? A year? Five years? Who is to know how long a treatment will extend life?

Does the “human right” include Lasik eye surgery (or progressive photochromic “transition” lenses) or merely basic eye glasses? Braces for teeth or simply pulling teeth with severe cavities?

And what about the cost of this new “human right”? Who will pay for it? How much will it cost above what we bear now? How will the extra taxes be raised?

If everybody had equal access to every possible medical procedure or intervention, how would that increased demand be supplied? If there were inadequate supply of health care providers to meet the demand, how would that limited supply be allocated?

In short, I believe we can be a compassionate people, but we also need to hold people more accountable for their own results. Slogans are catchy in politics, but are not solutions to real problems.

Note:
[1] EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act) EMTALA was enacted by Congress in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 (42 U.S.C. §1395dd). EMTALA requires hospital emergency departments to
1.      Provide a medical screening examination to determine whether an emergency medical condition exists, regardless of health insurance status or ability to pay, and without delay to inquire about methods of payment or insurance coverage to any individual who comes and requests examination or treatment of a medical condition
  1. If an emergency medical condition exists, provide treatment until the emergency medical condition is resolved or stabilized. If the hospital does not have the capability to stabilize the emergency medical condition, an "appropriate" transfer to another hospital must occur.
  2. Hospitals with specialized capabilities are obligated to accept transfers from hospitals who lack the capability to treat unstable emergency medical conditions.
    Source: EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act) by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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