Health care is a fundamental right

when asked at the 2009 New Student Convocation whether health care is a moral issue, George Will said that “spending other people’s money for a program they would not spend money on is a moral hazard.” Will dodged the moral question at the heart of the national debate on health care by introducing the relatively shallow issue of tax policy.

The student who asked the question, like the rest of us, probably feels the central concern is whether it is moral for our society to allow the human suffering that results from citizens having limited access to health care.

Thomas Jefferson suggested in 1779 that Virginia provide free public schools for its children. He was ignored. But by the end of the 1800s, free public elementary schools were available for all students. Now, access to a free public school education is a fundamental right in this country. Americans would never do away with our public education system despite its deficiencies.

Our support of the education system is reminiscent of British support for their health care system. Despite massive flaws in their system, a majority of Brits refuse to privatize it. Why are we so squarely behind education as a right and not health care?

Arguments that pertain to equality of access and opportunities can be applied to both health care and education. High health care prices prevent households from making investments in education and businesses that could improve their collective futures. Not only does forcing families to “pay or suffer” threaten their economic security, allowing the free market to inflict physical pain on others in your society is merciless to an Orwellian degree. Those who oppose health care for all are basically watching helpless Americans endure the most heartrending of hardships and then callously saying, “I’m not paying for this.”

Even if you don’t support universal health care, what should be clear for everyone is that something has to give. Health care spending at current rates will fiscally (not just morally) bankrupt this country. We should try to cover everyone, because if we don’t, the American economy will become a metaphor for the American Death Panel, systematically allowing our citizens to die.

Josh Kornfield is a sophomore majoring in international studies and political science. He may be contacted at