With the debate between Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Bernie Sanders over healthcare this coming Tuesday, I wanted to ask the question, is healthcare a right? There has been much talk of human rights lately, and if healthcare is one of those rights. Additionally, if it is not a right how do we make sure that the maximum number of persons have access to good healthcare.
The Merriam-Webster legal dictionary defines a human right as, “rights regarded as belonging to all people”. For it to belong to all people that implies that it does not infringe on the rights of another person. Or else some groups would have human rights, while others did not. Someone can swing their arm as much as they want, until they hit my face. For basic rights to be respected each person has to have the right to their property (money, land, time, possessions, and their own physical body). If I am in need of healthcare, then I am relying on the time, education, tools, and presence of a doctor. To demand so much of their property to cure my disease without payment encroaches on their natural rights. On the other-side it would be a violation of my rights if they refused to treat me due to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion if they are providing the same service to others. This puts healthcare in the category of a product, not a natural human right.
If healthcare is a product, then how do we provide it for the greatest number of people? The answer is found in the free market. However, first let’s examine the view of the single payer system that so many hold up as the morally superior system of healthcare. When Senator Sanders speaks of the single payer system he means that the government is the single payer of healthcare. This takes away any competition and reason for health providers to lower prices. This can be seen in a different industry: college tuition. For the fifteen-year period from 2000 to 2015, federal financial aid exploded with a 58% increase in the average yearly loan amount. These loans became easy to receive regardless of major or repayment plan, which led to many students getting a nearly free education for any length of time and in any subject. This is regardless of whether that subject or skill is rewarded in the market place. This caused more cost with little economic output, and college tuition prices skyrocketed. To put it in perspective college tuition costs increased an average of 6% per year compared to increases in overall consumer prices (2.4%). These institutions know that the government will continue to send students back to school regardless of price.
The same is true in healthcare. The government pays for healthcare services by taxing its citizens, and printing more money. What lowers prices for a product is competition of prices and services, and consumers who place a value on a product based on what they can afford, and how crucial the product is to their lives. If healthcare providers know that the government will be paying for all healthcare services, they also know that the government will be able to pay any price. Combined with the typical increase in regulation that it takes to service government organizations they raise their prices. This extra cost goes directly to the tax payer. However, if government treated healthcare as a product on the free market then there would be consumers with limited budgets to pay healthcare providers for their services. Consumers would choose their own providers, and doctors would compete for each consumer. This would dramatically lower healthcare costs and taxes simultaneously. A double price cut for all Americans. Also, Americans would see the money that it takes to provide for their healthcare come directly out of their wallets, and not as part of a large sum of their yearly taxes. This would incentivize people to take better care of their health leading to less doctor’s visits. For procedures that are very expensive, or for those with chronic or terminal diseases, the government can provide tax deductions for contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HAS), which act similar to a retirement account. These savings will be free of tax and will compound annually.
Now there will be small group of Americans who are still able to afford some, but not all the services that they need, whether that is due to financial restraints, or extensive health problems. This is where I believe that the church has an amazing chance to shine the light of Christ. In a study done by the Pew Research Center, in 2014 nearly 70.6% of the population in the United States identified as Christian. If even a small fraction of these churches provided needed healthcare services to those who legitimately cannot afford it then we would have a healthy nation. This would not be a solution for all their healthcare needs, but only the ones they truly cannot afford. Without the government to fall back on at any price, people would take better care of themselves, or find a way to pay for their healthcare before luxury items like TVs, smart phones, or games. Let’s push for systems that incentivize growth, personal freedom, and protection of natural rights. Next post I will discuss poverty and how economic redistribution through income taxes actually hurts the poor, lower, and middle economic classes. Until then let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.
Also, watch the healthcare debate on CNN between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders Tuesday February 7th at 8 pm CST. See what you think about the issue.