Michael Cannon: Is Health Care a Right or Privilege?

some 47 million Americans don't have health insurance some of them by choice fixing that as a top priority of the Obama administration and fixing it so that people get good quality care across the board but this question about health care sparks passionate debate as we found out after I made this comment on squawk on the street yesterday I just want to throw it out there since we did it with housing and you're in a different environment these health care right there's no cure all right we'd all like to say yes are there restrictions around that parameters I don't know I'm just curious what people think well we got a lot of email after that little exchange up to mark Gaines and myself here's just a couple of examples William a retired firefighter who has cancer wrote in ever wonder why there are no for-profit fire departments because they burned down whole cities by denying service to people who couldn't pay medical treatment is a similar matter of public safety this email those sums up the other side fairly well quote if we have a right to something then there is a con commit and responsibility attached in an intellectually honest society I choose to smoke cigarettes should anyone be expected to pay for my lung transplant I'm sorry that didn't get on the screen but that perhaps summarized at the best let's talk about this with Michael cannon director of health policy at the Cato Institute and my farm senior policy advisor for the national physicians Alliance good to have both of you with us Michael cannon you note that Michael Moore in his sicko movie said America is the only country in the Western world that doesn't believe it's a human right to provide free universal health care coverage for every one of its citizens should health care be right yeah well you know hey I think it should be a right and I think it should be free and I think that therefore physicians should work for nothing how dare they charge me yeah how dare they charge me for medical care when I have a right to it I mean really I don't have to pay in order to speak freely I don't need to pay in order to exercise my right to religion so how dare a physician or a nurse charge me for medical care when I have a right to that so you're saying if we go with it being a right we end up in that situation where people expect things for free or perhaps take advantage of services I think what happens is you end up in a situation where you don't have health care if you treat health care with a right you won't have any health care because there won't be anyone there to provide it my what is your view on that is that where we would end up if we treated it as a right that everyone's entitled to well I think it's really not constructive to talk about in absolute terms I think from an empiric perspective the country has decided that it is a right with the election of Obama and in many ways that was the easy part the public's endorsement of that very high priority of his I think the much more difficult part is what Michael's alluding to is deciding it's a right to what and how does one pay for and how does one make sure that what we get for the money we invest is good enough value for society should not be able to charge for necessary care dude would you agree with me that doctors should not be able to charge for necessary services because we have a right to those services that's really not my definition of a right I mean right so you're right your definition of a right in me is that what we've decided it's right because we've elected President Obama I think that that is a right conservative can be elected then that rights going to disappear okay Michael let her answer I think that the conception that health care that there are certain necessities in health care that we as a society cannot imagine withholding we do not let people die on the street bleeding in this country hospitals are required to treat patients who show up in their emergency rooms there are limits to what we can afford to provide but that doesn't really address the extreme version that Michael is presenting it's really about getting down to hard work this is not about shouting out slogans anymore or about campaigns on simplistic concepts this is really about figuring out how does one structure a health care system to get better value out of it so that we can give as much of it as we can afford to people who need it my let's just be honest with our can we agree more just like in schools in in in poorer areas in this country oftentimes the health care is not equivalent to what you get in wealthier areas it just isn't that's right and so then the question would be when you say right does right mean no matter how much you make or how poor you are you are entitled to the same sort of a care let's just say you had a heart attack as someone who lives in dari Ann can I come back to defining what the what is that you have a right to and you know if you want to talk about disparities in healthcare right there I think it's a perfect prism for looking at the many ailments that can be fixed if we were committed to doing so a lot of those disparities are not just a function of the socioeconomic status of the patients but of the way that we structure payment policies of the way that we structure coverage policies and how we do graduate medical education I think there are definitely levers that can be pushed to really mitigate a lot of the things that we seem to think are intractable problems Michael here so here's a question I have if you say it's a right and then you're right you get to this issue of whether you charge for it but if you don't charge for something then you might have overconsumption of something that you don't necessarily need that consumption of right people might just go in and start getting new guy glasses all the time because they're free I mean I know a company that provided that service and these people would keep going and getting new sets of eyeglasses because they're free so why not if you make healthcare free to people then they will not treat it like the precious resource that it is so I couldn't agree more that we need to avoid simplistic slogans and actually get down to the real hard part which is how do we make healthcare better and more affordable but saying that health care is a right saying that health care is a fundamental human right is one of those simplistic nonsense slogans because it completely avoids the real problem of how do you make it healthcare better cheaper and safer so that we can save more lives but what do you do when we're in a position like as we know we are and you and you're both going to tell me the money is poorly spent and I'm sure obviously you're right on that but by 2019 this country will be bankrupt due to the health care promises it has made to Americans whether that's prescription drug benefit or whatever it will be so we can either say we're going to completely fix it spend less money and get better care or we're going to have to acknowledge that somebody's going to get cut on something and in Medicare we've tried to make health care a right for seniors and look what's happened we're wasting billions hundreds of billions of dollars every year on useless medical care Medicare is driving down the quality of care it's making health care more expensive not just for the taxpayers we have to fund the photo op program but for the rest of us well you buy health care on our own I think you're just bundled in there hundreds upon thousands of programmatic and policy decisions that need not stay the way that they are it is not a given that because there is an entitlement to certain health care benefits that you then have runaway costs it's a matter of how you structure those benefits it's a matter of what kind of cost sharing and how much cost-sharing you ask of beneficiaries it's a matter of how you structure payments to providers and their love for Medicare to work to operate differently than it actually does but in the real world this is how Medicare operates this is what happens when you decide that we're gonna try to treat health care as a right health care becomes more costly the quality becomes worse and it disappears I would just point out that private health insurance payers and insurers face the exact same problems that Medicare does with runaway costs and there's because we try to make it in the private sector to people in a private sector by providing a tax break for employer sponsored insurance we've tried it with price controls on health insurance we've we've we've done all sorts of things to to meddle with the market not just for seniors but for people under age 65 and that's why health care is becoming more and more expensive and I think it's I think it's much more constructive to talk about the path forward and how one fixes it and how much healthcare is enough healthcare for whom I think that it's much easier to say something is broken than to explain how one might fix it I think we'll leave it on that note because I think everyone can agree with that statement whether it's on health care or anything else thanks to both of you I'll have you back thank you


  1. Healthcare isn't a right it's a luxury…the majority of people don't need healthcare for survival Hispanics in the US have the highest life expectancy but lower healthcare coverage basically proving that the causation in life expectancy is the infant mortality rate since Hispanics have around the same infant mortality rate as Whites in the US

  2. I guess food, clothing and shelter are also human rights so I don't think I'll pay for those, anymore.

  3. Stop listening to liars. Google facts about life expectancy, child mortality and life expectancy by country then check per capita expenditure. Americaans die younger, pay more and more American children die. Is that a good deal?

  4. There's only one very simple solution. That is, DON"T GET ILL MF! If you do get ill. You're screwed. Problem solved!

  5. Health care is a right the same way freedom of press and owning a gun are rights. Yes, you have the right to free press, but it doesn't mean the government must provide you with a printing press. Yes, you have the right to own a gun, but that doesn't mean someone else must provide you with a gun. Likewise, you have a right to health care in the sense that the government has no right to deny you health care, but it doesn't mean you must be provided with health care.

  6. See, the problem I have with treating healthcare as a privilege is that it treats health problems as if they're your own fault, when oftentimes they're not. Even the healthiest bloke can get lung cancer or a heart attack or broken bones. Some people are just predisposed to certain diseases and there's nothing you can do about it.

    And every day, I thank God that I live in the UK and not the US, and this is one of the main reasons why. I know my fellow Brits like whinging about the NHS, but, although the waiting times might be longer, we receive adequate healthcare when we need it and it won't cost us an arm and a leg. And I really, really feel for you Yanks. Like, I know you guys are obsessed with capitalism and all that, but don't you think putting money ahead of the health of your citizens is a little counter-intuitive?

  7. Pretty sure we elected him because he was black and good-looking and McCain was white and old. Ask anyone who voted for him in 08

  8. If healthcare is a "human right" to be 'free' for all funded by taxpayers then food and water must also be a human right that must be paid by taxpayers, free of charge for all people. But it simply does work that way.

  9. Why are liberals so much more adept at civil discourse? Seriously, Michael Cannon made great points, but he looks like a moron here anyway. Seems like he's more interested in pedaling an ideology than confronting any policy questions. Libertarians need to change their tactics.

  10. It's a privilege! If you're too lazy to work, then you don't deserve it! It's the liberal communists who say that health care is a right!

  11. If it is a right, it is demanded and given free without any hookups from any form of entity – it is an absence of someone's losing liberty. It is privilege if it's being earn. The principle of ownership is one must preserve, the protection of its personal freedom and the pursuit of ownership. The Obamacare suits everyone, this is the basic issue of its program. Any form of rules of law must taken under the principle of the constitution. The program adhere from the advises of the few ruling men. Anyone who want to managed your choice or your belief, is given by many people through few men. The power of the government can give to you, is the same power that could destroy you. It's time for you to limit, and realize you don't want it's power to be part of your life – by just a single stroke of the pen called common goal.

  12. The lady said that America chose healthcare as a right through electing Obama.  In other words, if the majority agrees to taking something from someone else, then it is okay.  She talks about what "we" can afford like the money just comes out of the government's ass.  No, no, no…it comes out of my ass and the ass of everyone else who contributes to the work force of america.  I think it should be my right to shoot heroin but I do not want anyone to pay for it or for my impending health problems.  Why can I not do that?  I am not the thief here.

  13. the second amendment gives me the right to own a gun, so should the taxpayers buy me a gun, pay for the required training, ammo to practice with, pay for the classroom training that is required, then pay for the cost of the permit to carry it?

  14. As much as I'd like everyone to have health care, I don't support treating it as a right. Yes, it sucks that not everyone is guaranteed health care. It sucks that people can lie to you without being arrested. It sucks that some people are born into better families (Etc). However, you don't have the RIGHT to health care. You don't have the RIGHT to stop people from lying to you through the law. You don't have the RIGHT to demand a more loving family, as nice as it would be.

  15. All the people arguing that healthcare is a right obviously don't believe in the non-aggression principle. Under no circumstance do you have a right to force someone else to do anything. People need to see the bigger picture. Imagine someone was spreading the message that bleach is healthy and people were dying by listening to them. I don't think anyone would be trying to change the first amendment and limit freedom of speech. It's a principle that we agree should never be broken.

  16. Ironically, more than one million Vietnamese died or disappeared trying to leave their communist, tyrannical govt post 1975, yet many of them don't seem to mind the USA moving in that direction politically. But Dr Pham is hot!

  17. Here in the UK We have the NHS It`s not perfect and moaning about it is bit of a national pastime , if however you say to the moaners would you like to disband the NHS and replace it with a system similar to the USA the silence is deafening.

  18. you dont have a right to a gun. you have a right to keep your guns without worry from the government

  19. A time at which your defense costs(along with the costs of much of the rest of Europe's) became heavily subsidized by the Americans…which we have stupidly continued for decades.

    Look at your average household debt to income ratio. Look at your debt as a percentage of GDP. Tell me with a straight face that it's sustainable…never mind in my country which has much higher levels of debt.

  20. It's not a different issue. Perhaps it's a different form of slavery than we commonly think of.

    But if you(or a million people for that matter) tell me that despite the fact that I'm not harming anyone nor stealing, that I must contribute or face jail time and are willing to send men with guns and the legal ability to kill me if I protest to enforce what you say, that is slavery. I must work for you or be killed, jailed, or otherwise harmed.

    It's not about the amount of money.

  21. We introduced universal health coverage for all in 1047 when we were totaly broke, worse off than the defeated Germans finacially, our infrastruture was in ruins. I simply don't accept that America, the richest nation on earth cant afford it. Enjoy you're money.

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