President Obama and Congress have now shifted their attention towards health care reform. This subject is critically important to anyone who might need medical care someday — namely, all Americans. Unfortunately, too many pundits and politicians erroneously equate “health care reform” with government-run “universal health care.” Before we rush headlong into any such program, here are three basic facts that Americans should know about universal health care:
1) Government-run “universal health care” leads to rationing
Whenever government attempts to guarantee health care, it must also control its costs. The inevitable result is rationing and waiting lists — a recurring pattern in countries with government-run medical systems. A Canadian who needs a hip replacement might wait over a year before his surgery. A Canadian breast cancer patient may wait months until the government approves her surgery and chemotherapy. Access to advanced technology such as MRI scans is highly restricted in Canada and the UK, compared with the United States. In those countries, bureaucrats ultimately decide who gets what care and when — not doctors and patients. In socialized medical systems, health care is never truly a “right” but just another privilege dispensed at the discretion of the government.
2) Health care is not a “right”
Health care is a need, like food and shelter. It’s not a right. Rights are freedoms of action (such as the right to free speech), not automatic claims on goods or services that must be produced by another. There is no such thing as a “right” to a house … or a tonsillectomy. Patients do have the right to seek health care, and doctors have the right to offer it on terms they find mutually acceptable. Attempting to guarantee an alleged “right” to health care necessarily violates these actual rights. If a patient needs care but cannot afford it, he should rely on voluntary charity (which has always been forthcoming from generous Americans), not demand it as a government entitlement.