Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Health Care as a Right

The House proposal to raise taxes on the very rich to help cover health insurance for all brings into focus what has been a hidden issue in the debate until now: Should medical care be a right guaranteed to all by all, as education, safety in the streets and freedom from foreign invasion now are as part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

If government pays for the schooling of Americans and their safety in the streets, is it any less logical to consider protection from life-threatening disease as a basic right rather than an individual choice?

"Tax is a four-letter word" with voters, says conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, pointing out that even families not in the top 1 percent "hope they're going to be there someday. So they don't necessarily think it's fair."

Even the Rightmost legislators and their constituents wouldn't propose privatizing the armed forces (pace Blackwater) and the nation's school systems but will argue that even partial public responsibility for saving lives in doctors' offices and hospital waiting rooms is unfair.

As the final showdown on health care reform comes closer, the President and his supporters are going to have to make that case against those who are still living with the Dickensian attitude that public responsibility for the poor ends with workhouses and prisons.

With Ted Kennedy's Senate committee now offering its own version of 21st century health care, that time is at hand.

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