Free Markets, Free People

Health Care Reform Now A Moral Obligation

Once again the reasoning in support of a federal overhaul (and takeover) of national health care has shifted. It started out as a fiscal imperative with Pres. Obama claiming that our money woes were caused by the rising costs of health care. We were told that only government can contain administrative costs and deliver efficient, effective care. Later is was the need to control greedy insurance companies who treat their clients shoddily by denying coverage. Government run care would make sure that nobody was denied insurance, and that we would all pay basically the same rates. Of course, the infamous public option was touted as the primary tool for accomplishing this goal, carefully eliding past the “fiscal sanity” reasons for reform, which option has apparently been set out to pasture after facing fierce public resistance.

Yet, despite a full-court press on the issue, including unapologetic assistance from the media, the government’s plan(s) to change health care have grown steadily less popular.

So now the reasoning shifts again. As it turns out, you all are just bad, immoral people if you don’t approve of the government taking your money and running your health care.

President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.

“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.

Well, the President would know about bearing false witness, now wouldn’t he.

In any event, Obama’s attempt to turn this into a moral debate is not only a naked act of desperation to save his pet cause, it is also the closest to the true reason why health reform is so important to him, and the left in general, in the first place. Supporters of government-run health care are convinced that the presence of a profit motive in the delivery of health services is a bad thing and that wringing every last ounce of market incentive from the process will lead to wonderful new outcomes. And the way they are prepared to sell it is by pushing the idea that health care is a civil right.

Interestingly enough, Jonathan Alter started the ball rolling on this score just a few days before the President (it’s almost as if they are reading from the same playbook or something!):

The main reason that the bill isn’t sold as civil rights is that most Americans don’t believe there’s a “right” to health care. They see their rights as inalienable, and thus free, which health care isn’t. Serious illness is an abstraction (thankfully) for younger Americans. It’s something that happens to someone else, and if that someone else is older than 65, we know that Medicare will take care of it. Polls show that the 87 percent of Americans who have health insurance aren’t much interested in giving any new rights and entitlements to “them”—the uninsured.

But how about if you or someone you know loses a job and the them becomes “us”? The recession, which is thought to be harming the cause of reform, could be aiding it if the story were told with the proper sense of drama and fright. Since all versions of the pending bill ban discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, that provision isn’t controversial. Which means it gets little attention. Which means that the deep moral wrong that passage of this bill would remedy is somehow missing from the debate.

[...]

The only thing that should be unbreakable in a piece of legislation is the principle behind it. In the case of Social Security, it was the security and peace of mind that came with the knowledge of a guaranteed old-age benefit. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush got slam-dunked when they tried to mess with that.) In the civil-rights bills, the principle was no discrimination on the basis of an unavoidable, preexisting “condition” like race.

The core principle behind health-care reform is—or should be—a combination of Social Security insurance and civil rights. Passage would end the shameful era in our nation’s history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn’t have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We’ll look back in wonder—that is, if we pass the bill.

Just to focus the argument, Alter is suggesting that it is a violation of individual civil rights, akin to discriminating against someone on the basis of race (wow, didn’t see that coming), to deny one insurance because one is sick. This is ludicrous on a number of levels, but that it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of insurance is one of its worst features. Insurance is meant to protect against the expense of unknown outcomes by paying a small premium based on the statistical probability that one will suffer such an outcome. However, if one of the outcomes already exists then the insurance premium would simply be equal to the cost of treatment since the probability of payment is 1:1. In Alter’s world,and that of too many government health care supporters, insurance isn’t a risk management tool, it’s a medical discount and income redistribution tool. Which leads to the primary failure of his argument.

In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else. In order to believe otherwise, one would have to believe that doctors are actually slaves who can legally be commanded to fulfill one’s “right” to health care or suffer the consequences. The very idea is preposterous, which is why, as Alter notes, Americans have not kenned to the idea of there being a “right” to health care.

And yet, this is apparently the ground, this moral Waterloo, upon which Obama will choose to support his cause. The offensive will depend on the idea that a government health care plan is a moral obligation, and a protection of civil rights. Naturally, some imbecilic politician will assert that opposition to the plan is an immoral position, seeking to demonize (yet again) those naysayers who aren’t too keen on more government interference in their lives. After all, why not? They’ve already accused us of being, alternately, well-dressed plants for the insurance lobby and ignorant, racist hicks who just can’t stand having a black man in the White House, and look what those lines of argument achieved. I predict that this latest attack will be equally as effective.

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29 Responses to Health Care Reform Now A Moral Obligation

  • IIRC, something about theft is actuallly in the 10 Commandments. Leads me to believe that the Presidents plan is the immoral one . . .

  • Ending the war in Iraq and closing Gitmo were also “moral obligations” if I remember correctly.

    How’d that work out

  • Obama has gotten away with so much for so long that it seems he is not embarrassed or even aware that to be seen changing his story every other day weakens everything he says.

    He has become The Pathological Liar from SNL. “Health care reform is a moral obligation. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

  • bearing false witness

    Seems he heard at least part of Rev. Wright’s sermons

  • If there is a moral imperative for government to provide, why didn’t the “stimulus” just give everybody a new American automobile, an endless supply of gasoline, an X-box, a boat, a free lifetime pass to Burger King and no taxes ?

    “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: and to God the things that are God’s”
    Is it God’s wish that “Caesar” should keep you from “God’s” domain ?

  • All I keep thinking is that we’re asking the same government that gave us Cash for Clunkers to take over the health insurance market. Prior to Cash for Clunkers, I kept think that we’re asking the same government that gave us Medicare to take over the health insurance market. Obama himself is asking us to allow the same government that runs the Post Office to take over the health insurance market.

    Uh, isn’t Russian Roulette supposed to be played with at least one empty chamber?

  • How you tell when politician lie?

    Comrade Pelosi blink

    Slick Willy rub nose

    Comrade Obama open mouth

    Dumb Donkey Gibbs laugh…Hehaw..he..haw..he..haw!

    I Igor produce Barrack Milhaus Hussein Obama Birth Certificate at http://www.igormarxo.org

    Compare Obama Care vs Igor Care at Obama vs Igor Care

  • Morality, and especially Christian morality, is something that the dems like to trot out from time to time in the apparent belief that we Bible-thumping rubes can be suckered into supporting them just because they mention Jesus as something other than a curse word. I recall Jean-Francois Kerry (who, I’ve heard somewhere, served in Vietnam) quoting James II:20:

    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

    Jean-Francois, of course, meant that the wicked Bush CLEARLY didn’t really have faith and was falling down on the job as a Christian because he didn’t want to give away quite as much of other people’s money as Jean-Francois and the rest of the dems thought proper (libs otherwise went into hysterics if he talked openly about his faith and accused Bush of wanting to establish a Christian theocracy). Another famous instance of a lib using the trappings of religion to sucker the hoi-poloi was when Slick Willie made a point of being filmed going to church while lugging an enormous Bible while in the throes of the Lewinski scandal.

    And now we have TAO, the messiah, telling us that supporting his health care takeover plan is a moral imperative and invoking Scripture to do it:

    [The Annointed One] said the reforms aim to carry out one of God’s commandments.

    “I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper,” Obama said.

    He called health reform a “core ethical and moral obligation.”

    http://www.nypost.com/seven/08202009/news/nationalnews/holy_o_turns_faith_healer_185446.htm

    It seems to me that I’ve heard TAO use the “brother’s keeper” reference before. What he seems not to realize (a result, I suppose, of sleeping through 20 years of sermons) is that it comes from Genesis IV and was uttered by the first murderer:

    And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

    And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

    Sigh…

    If TAO and the rest of the democrats actually believed what the Bible teaches, they wouldn’t be rushing to tax Peter to give money to Paul. The Bible makes no mention of forcing OTHERS to be charitable; rather, it speaks very strongly of the need to give to others less fortunate and to do so secretly and in humble obedience to GOD’S will (Matthew VI), NOT to the will of some sanctimonious pr*ck who uses the money to buy votes for himself.

    • You have made a point that I have raised constantly in conversations about religion and politics. The New Testament teachings of Jesus are clear on helping poor people, but that is an injunction laid on each person individually. You will search in vain for any suggestion that anyone is supposed to force others to help poor people whether they want to or not.

      A moral act must involve choice. A coerced act says nothing about the morality of the person acting. (It does say something about the morality of the person performing coercion, however.)

    • Morality, and especially Christian morality, is something that the dems like to trot out from time to time in the apparent belief that we Bible-thumping rubes can be suckered into supporting them just because they mention Jesus as something other than a curse word.

      My favorite example was Howard Dean asserting that his favorite book of the New Testament was Job.

  • No different than ‘for the children’ – same drink, slightly different flavor.

    Instead of Death Panels, next it’s conservatives who’ll be killin grandma because we didn’t support it, it’s coming…

  • In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else.

    Does your garbage get picked up? Do you have police firefighters where you live? Those aren’t rights, either. Yet, most Americans would not want to live w/o such services.

    • Fine. Then call it a service, and not a right. Advocates of Obama’s healthcare vision should stop trying to contaminate the discussion with post-modern changes in the meaning of words.

    • The only obligation my garbage man has to provide me “service” is when I pay my bill. Until I pay it I have no “right” to his service. It’s a simple business transaction.

      Same with police and firefighters. We agree to pay them to provide a service. They have no inherent obligation to provide it otherwise.

      • First, police protection is a proper function of government (protection from domestic force & fraud).

        You’re right to call it a service, because that’s exactly what it is, but that doesn’t infer it’s a right. Police protection isn’t a right , either, as the Supreme Court has stated several times in response to suits where the police didn’t provide one-on-one protection.

        Even fire protection is not, and that’s why a large part of the country is served by volunteer departments. In my area just outside Phoenix, our fire protection and ambulance is provided by *Rural Metro, Inc.*, and we pay a subscription quarterly.

  • police AND firefighters

    • See my post above about the propriety of government fire protection.

    • Right kathy. In fact, the Supremes have made it clear that police protection is not a right. Neither is healthcare, and as long as Obama and the Democrats don’t claim it as a right or make arguments that it is a moral requirement, we won’t have to point out that it isn’t a right.

  • As a Canadian, I am fascinated by the ongoing healthcare debate in the US. My politics run libertarian (small “l”, I think), but that puts me to the right of Atilla the Hun in this country. I have also been a longtime reader of QandO.

    I have read that 70% of Americans get their healthcare through work. Almost everyone I have read on both sides of the debate thinks this is a Bad Thing and a relic of the past.

    What do you think the chances are of a full blown “let the free market reign” solution a la John Mackey’s recent oped in the Wall Street Journal? Slim to none, especially with this Congress, correct? But face facts, only about what, 15% of the population is “libertarian”.

    During this debate, isn’t it clear to you that the government will not let go of the power they have over the healthcare system? I think its a total fantasy that believers in the free market system hold out for free market solutions. It just won’t happen. The government will not give up control, and useful idiots who vote for the looters will continue to believe the free market is morally wrong. There are too many of these people voting and they will not support a free market approach.

    So what about a pragmatic solution? If indeed 30% of your insurance premiums pay for administrative overhead (is this true?), wouldn’t the best outcome of this reform process be single payer where admin costs can be as low as 3-4%? The savings could be plowed into better care or coverage for the uninsured (not including illegals).

    Let me be clear. In Canada, I cannot buy private insurance to cover major medical expenses. I cannot go to a private hospital and get heart surgery or get cancer treatment(unless its in the US!) Even worse, the medical system here is socialist to the point where hospitals, doctors nurses etc are essentially government workers. Their unions are all about less work for more pay. I am not advocating our system here.

    I would suggest that given the realities of the debate in the US, the next best option is single payer, but retain the ability for citizens to purchase private insurance (at added, after tax expense), and ensure private delivery of the healthcare services.

    BTW, taxes will go way up under this option. In Canada, you are “rich” if you earn over 75K. 50% of each dollar you earn over that amount is confiscated by our government.

    Who knows? In exchange for capitulation, maybe the Republicans can get a full blown school voucher system in place to compete with the public system across the nation.

    We can only dream.

    • We’ve covered the reason for the “efficiency” differences and pointed out in other posts that the Medicare “efficiency” claim is a myth.

      And while I might agree that only 15% of Americans would claim to be libertarian, a much larger percentage would claim some pretty strong libertarian leanings. That is one reason this mess being proposed is in such trouble.

    • I think its a total fantasy that believers in the free market system hold out for free market solutions. It just won’t happen.

      Then you’ll have to indulge some of us in our fantasy. I for one will not quietly give into those who wish to control most of my life, for my own sake and my children and grandchildren.

      You may also be misjudging Americans. This nation has a cross-grained culture unlike any in the world. I wouldn’t predict what we might do based on what Canadians would do.

    • During this debate, isn’t it clear to you that the government will not let go of the power they have over the healthcare system? I think its a total fantasy that believers in the free market system hold out for free market solutions. It just won’t happen. The government will not give up control, and useful idiots who vote for the looters will continue to believe the free market is morally wrong. There are too many of these people voting and they will not support a free market approach.

      I think we’ve been pretty clear around here about not expecting government to give up power. Indeed, that’s one of the primary reasons for being so adamantly against government run health care, whatever the form.

      And you’re right that our libertarian notions do not enjoy widespread support. But that’s exactly what makes us different from unabashed partisans. Speaking for myself, I don’t engage in these diatribes to help any party, nor to win popularity contests. Freedom, in my mind, is something worth fighting for, even if it’s just simple words on a webpage that not many people see. Heck, it’s worth dying for in my opinion, so persistently poking holes in government promises and laying out facts upon which to base arguments is small potatoes in comparison. I honestly don’t care how daunting the task is of convincing people to think the same way, I’m going to do it anyway.

      Don’t get me wrong, I understand the pragmatic approach you advocate. It just so happens that I see the push for government run health care as crossing a Maginot Line — it may not work in defending the individual freedoms I hold dear, but I’m going to stay on defending it just the same.

      • Stopping Obamacare is not just of interest to libertarians. Heck, even the seniors protecting Medicare oppose Obamacare. If they defeat Obamacare, I’m happy, even if they are defending an unsustainable system I oppose on principle.

      • It just so happens that I see the push for government run health care as crossing a Maginot Line

        Ah-HA!!
        I knew you’d get around to comparing the Obama government to Nazis. It was only a matter of time. ;)

        Cheers.

    • JasperPants,

      I agree, we will not move towards a true free market system anytime soon. What we need is an incremental move in that direction. For example, changing the rules so there is more competition in insurance, by reducing the government control over what is covered, etc.

      This is similar to the debate on shall issue concealed weapons permits (CCW). Gun Owners of America (GOA) initially came out against such permits, arguing that the only proper solution was Vermont style CCW, i.e., no permit required. However, I think it is clear that the shall issue approach was the right one, and at least one state (Alaska) went from shall-issue to no permit required. Once people are OK with their fellow citizens packing heat, it becomes easier to take the next step . . . and the arguments that there will be blood in the streets fall apart.

    • Hey Jasper, you stated that you were a long time reader of QandO. After reading your comment, you should be a long time commenter. :)

      Just sayin’

      Cheers.

  • and it not just a moral obligation, it’s to become a financial obligation ..

    SEC. 163. ADMINISTRATIVE SIMPLIFICATION.
    … enable the real-time (or near real-time) determination of an individual’s financial responsibility at the point of service and, to the extent possible, prior to service, including whether the individual is eligible for a specific service with a specific physician at a specific facility, which may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification

    I love the prior to service part. Reminds me of that Michelle Obama plan to redirect poor patients to other hospitals, but that’s old history.
    This is the ultimate “wallet-ectomy” plan that even the most “evil” hospital administrator could never hope to achieve. You get to look into their accounts, prior to service, to see if they are “eligible“.