This article was first published on LinkedIn on June 6, 2019. It has been viewed over 4,000 times.
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we honor the bravery and fortitude of the soldiers who helped safeguard our freedom. Their service secured our right to free speech. Our right to bear arms. Our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But here’s a right they didn’t fight for: health care.
Why? Because health care is not a right.
This fact goes against the grain of what most people hear and what many people say. Politicians in particular lean on the phrase because it enables them to gain voter support. Calling health care a right implies empathy for the common man, for those in need. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans have been passing health care legislation for decades. These laws have contributed to the evolution of a system with noble intentions, handcuffed by unwieldy bureaucratic rules and regulations.
We have to reform the health care system. One approach is to change the conversation, and to stop calling health care a right. First of all, the term “health care” is undefined. It could mean universal coverage for every available drug, therapy and procedure, or it could mean access to basic primary care. Until we define health care, we can’t label it anything.
More importantly, rights are ideas and concepts that are automatically conferred to everyone. They don’t have a price tag. How can health care be a right when we spend trillions and trillions of dollars on it, year over year?
Rather than call health care a right, we should refer to it as a responsibility. Seventy-five years after D-Day, the United States is the world’s economic leader. We’ve all heard the phrase, “With great wealth comes great responsibility.” Responsibility is a two-way street. It implies accountability, it assumes action to create an outcome. Our government, with all its prodigious wealth, has a responsibility to grant us health care. In parallel, we citizens have a responsibility to behave in ways that justify the policies.
Changing behavior is the most critical yet most challenging aspect of transforming our health care system. We must promote wellness and positive habits so we can improve the healthiness of our population. That will go a long way to reducing costs, and to enabling improved access to care for those who really need it. Hopefully, we can use the heroic acts of those who have come before us as encouragement to be as healthy as we can be.