The Healthcare Entrepreneur Blog

Obama v. McCain: Is healthcare a right?

by Tannus Quatre PT, MBA | October 10th, 2008 | No responses

Over the past few weeks, healthcare has not been the top story in the news.  America’s money has been the focus recently, and rightfully so.

The two are very much related though, as money buys healthcare, and good health allows our economy to generate money. 

For those that have been following the presidential race, it should be clear that one of the biggest fundamental differences between the candidates has to do with the level of regulation applied to the healthcare industry.  Obama believes that healthcare is a right, and should be available to every American.  McCain believes that healthcare is a responsibility, and that government’s role should be to create an environment where Americans can have the choice to access affordable healthcare through specific incentives and tax credits.

As a healthcare entrepreneur myself, I certainly believe in the power of the free market to drive innovation, creativity, and progress.  In fact, helping physicians, physical therapists, dentists, and the like to leverage the entrepreneurial spirit for the benefit of their patients and themselves is the sole focus of our company.

This said, this question over whether or not healthcare is a right or a responsibility shouldn’t be taken flippantly, and deserves some thought and reflection from those of us that focus our professional careers around the issue.  While free market principles undoubtedly play a positive role in catapulting forward our technologies and business models within the healthcare industry, there is a role for the protections afforded Americans through systematic oversight.

I appreciate the comments made by Paul Hsieh, MD in his blog, We Stand Firm, in regard to the view that healthcare is a commodity, but would add that a balance can be achieved whereby one person’s right to access healthcare doesn’t necessarily have to infringe upon another’s right to (or to not) provide it.

The fact that modern health care is essential for human life makes it all the more crucial to allow the free market to work and to restrain the government from violating the rights of patients and health care providers. Any attempts by the government to guarantee health care as a “right” necessarily violates someone’s actual rights — either the providers or those forced to pay for others’ health care against their will or both. Hence, Americans must reject the flawed notion of health care as some sort of “right” and embrace the fact that it is a commodity.

And for those that are interested, here is an excerpt from the presidential debate last Thursday night on the topic of the right to healthcare, provided by CNN:

Brokaw: Quick discussion. Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?

Sen. McCain?

McCain: I think it’s a responsibility, in this respect, in that we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, to every family member. And with the plan that — that I have, that will do that.

But government mandates I — I’m always a little nervous about. But it is certainly my responsibility. It is certainly small-business people and others, and they understand that responsibility. American citizens understand that. Employers understand that.

But they certainly are a little nervous when Sen. Obama says, if you don’t get the health care policy that I think you should have, then you’re going to get fined. And, by the way, Sen. Obama has never mentioned how much that fine might be. Perhaps we might find that out tonight.

Obama: Well, why don’t — why don’t — let’s talk about this, Tom, because there was just a lot of stuff out there.

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility. Let’s start with that.

Obama: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills — for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.

So let me — let me just talk about this fundamental difference. And, Tom, I know that we’re under time constraints, but Sen. McCain through a lot of stuff out there.

Number one, let me just repeat, if you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I’m going to do is help you to lower the premiums on it. You’ll still have choice of doctor. There’s no mandate involved.

Small businesses are not going to have a mandate. What we’re going to give you is a 50 percent tax credit to help provide health care for those that you need.

Now, it’s true that I say that you are going to have to make sure that your child has health care, because children are relatively cheap to insure and we don’t want them going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma.

And when Sen. McCain says that he wants to provide children health care, what he doesn’t mention is he voted against the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program that is responsible for making sure that so many children who didn’t have previously health insurance have it now.

Now, the final point I’ll make on this whole issue of government intrusion and mandates — it is absolutely true that I think it is important for government to crack down on insurance companies that are cheating their customers, that don’t give you the fine print, so you end up thinking that you’re paying for something and, when you finally get sick and you need it, you’re not getting it.

And the reason that it’s a problem to go shopping state by state, you know what insurance companies will do? They will find a state — maybe Arizona, maybe another state — where there are no requirements for you to get cancer screenings, where there are no requirements for you to have to get pre-existing conditions, and they will all set up shop there.

That’s how in banking it works. Everybody goes to Delaware, because they’ve got very — pretty loose laws when it comes to things like credit cards.

And in that situation, what happens is, is that the protections you have, the consumer protections that you need, you’re not going to have available to you.

That is a fundamental difference that I have with Sen. McCain. He believes in deregulation in every circumstance. That’s what we’ve been going through for the last eight years. It hasn’t worked, and we need fundamental change.

Tannus Quatre PT, MBA
Tannus Quatre is a private practice consultant and principal with Vantage Clinical Solutions, Inc., a nationwide healthcare consulting and management firm located in Bend, OR and Denver, CO. Tannus specializes in the areas of healthcare marketing, strategy, and finance, and can be reached through the Vantage Clinical Solutions website.