Amendment 63’s Foes Only Want You for Your Body

Should Colorado mandate that each car owner buy a comprehensive lifetime vehicle warranty? By the logic of a common argument against Colorado Amendment 63 and for mandatory medical insurance, the answer is “Yes.” Mandatory insurance treats your body as a means to political ends, rather than respecting your rights as an individual.

An editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera provides an example. It states:

The individual mandate widens the pool of people with bodies — bodies that, inevitably and without fail, need some medical care at some point — that pay for health insurance. The mix of the extremely healthy, the healthy, the sick and the acutely ill is one way to make our health care system healthier.

This argument illustrates H.L. Mencken‘s observation: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Read the rest of this article at the Huffington Post: Amendment 63’s Foes Only Want You for Your Body.

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2 Comments

Filed under public policy, published

2 responses to “Amendment 63’s Foes Only Want You for Your Body

  1. Huh? Mandatory car insurance at the state level is already routine. Insurance is not the same as a warranty (and obviously, a “health warranty” doesn’t exist, nor does it make any sense). Maybe if you had analogized with mandated auto collision insurance or something.

    Furthermore, you accuse proponents of mandatory health insurance of treating individuals as mere bodies, but how is that any worse than treating our bodies as mere property, which is explicitly what you’re doing by analogizing us with cars? Our bodies are not cars. And perhaps this makes me a bleeding heart, but it seems to me that they’re a little more important than that. You like to use the line that “health care is not a right, rights are freedoms of action…” but there is no freedom, and certainly no action, without one’s health! Not to mention, we’ve pretty much already decided as a society that at a certain level, health care IS a fundamental right, hence universal (albeit ridiculously expensive) access to emergency rooms.

    Let me offer my own analogy: Iraq. The reason there is no democracy in Iraq (and isn’t likely to be any time soon) is the lack of security. It’s the same with healthcare. Security in one’s health is a prerequisite to every other task we perform as autonomous individuals. So establishing that baseline of universal coverage is a fundamental good. After that we can argue costs, extent of coverage, death panels, and all that good stuff.

    None of this should be interpreted to mean that I’m in love with Obamacare, I just don’t see how it could possibly be worse than the pre-Obamacare status quo, which I consider to be pretty much the worst, and ever-worsening, of all possible worlds.

    • Ben, this reply got longer than I intended. As someone famous (Mark Twain) once said, if I had more time it would be shorter.

      Funny, at first I used both collision insurance and the warranty in the analogy. But I removed the collision insurance to avoid confusion with the mandated car insurance, which involves liability for property damage & medical expenses to others.

      Most health plans resemble a what could be called a “health warranty” than any other type of insurance, such as home-owners insurance or car insurance. See here and here.

      Bodies and property. The Wikipedia entry on property states: ” Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, sell, rent, mortgage, transfer, exchange or destroy their property, and/or to exclude others from doing these things.” I’d say that your body is your property. It belongs to you.

      Health care and rights. There are a few things I don’t understand about how medical care can be a right.

      If people have a right to medical treatment, this inevitably conflicts with the rights of those who can provide such treatment. That is, their right to provide services on a mutually voluntary basis, or to refrain from providing such services. An automatic “right” to what another produces is a type of slavery.

      Do you agree with the following proposed legislation in Massachusetts?

      Every health care provider licensed in the commonwealth which provides covered services to a person covered under “Affordable Health Plans” must provide such service to any such person, as a condition of their licensure, and must accept payment at the lowest of the statutory reimbursement rate …

      What should authorities do to physicians who peacefully refrain from providing treatment that someone has a “right” to?

      You write:

      You like to use the line that “health care is not a right, rights are freedoms of action…” but there is no freedom, and certainly no action, without one’s health! … Security in one’s health is a prerequisite to every other task we perform as autonomous individuals.

      Indigenous peoples around the planet have lived for a long time without modern medicine.
      Consider a remote village where people lack access to modern medicine & those skilled in practicing it. A man in the village has an infection, and would be much better off if he had access to a doctor who could recommend the right antibiotics. Is his “right” to health care being violated? If so, by whom?

      Say there’s a physician from the U.S. or Europe traveling in the area, with a scholar like Jared Diamond, say. She could diagnose the infection and has the proper medication. Does the man have a right to the physician’s time and expertise? Does it matter how close the physician to the man? When, if at all, does the man’s need entitle him to the physician’s time and expertise? When would the physician be violating the man’s rights for not providing treatment? Would justice prevail if the doctor were coerced into providing her medical services?

      Other questions along these lines are here.

      When you say “autonomous,” what do you mean? That is, free from what? No one can be free from the biological necessities of sustaining one’s own life. One question were are debating is:
      “Who is responsible for providing a person with those necessities?”

      You appear to be saying that one person’s choice to continue living entitles him to the time and resources of other people who can provide him with life’s necessities, as defined by political authorities. It reminds me of the Marxist dictum: “To each according to his need, from each according to his ability.” This is incompatible with the notion individual rights as freedoms of actions, and that your body & life belongs to you, as your property.

      My view is that if an adult want to live, it’s his personal responsibility to get what he needs to continue living through voluntary exchange with others. He’s not entitled these what others produce.

      Children are an exception. Parents should be held responsible for providing their children what they need to become adults who can survive through being production and voluntary trade.

      You wrote:

      we’ve pretty much already decided as a society that at a certain level, health care IS a fundamental right, hence universal (albeit ridiculously expensive) access to emergency rooms.

      I don’t understand how a person can have a fundamental right to something that must first be produced and/or discovered by someone else. Before people developed antibiotics, to use that example again, were people’s “fundamental right” to them being violated for thousands of years?

      More generally, I don’t think one can settle whether something is a right or not by a vote of Congress, or anyone. This is like saying that a vote could settle questions of science.

      We should be careful to distinguish whether we’re talking about natural rights or legal rights.

      Note also that

      (1) Courts in the U.S. have decided that people do not have the legal right to police protection.

      (2) Judges on the Canadian Supreme Court wrote that “The Charter [of Rights and Freedoms (like the Bill of Rights)] does not confer a freestanding constitutional right to health care. However, where the government puts in place a scheme to provide health care, that scheme must comply with the Charter.

      (3) I haven’t read much about how EMTALA works in practice, but here’s one doctor’s scary narrative of how it works.

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