Is Healthcare a Human Right? (EP.155)



Q. Is healthcare a human right? A. No. Reasonable access to healthcare is a human right.

Q. What about housing, food, clothing, employment and income, and so on? A. Same answer.

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute blog/podcast.


America is a unique and exceptional nation. Part of the  equally unique and exceptional role we need to play in it is to understand the right and wrong–and the cost–of the political arguments swirling around us..

“Human right” vs. “Reasonable access” is at the very core of what we are talking about here. If these things are indeed human rights, then everyone, all 7.5 billion of us humans in the world would be entitled to them. And even the most extravagant spender of US taxpayer money would admit that we cannot afford to supply those benefits to all of those around the world who are not now receiving them. So I suppose the “human right” phrase is more virtue signalling than a real position. It looks like we are talking about those who manage to be here in the US, with or without documents, legally or illegally.

Pause for a key definition: Illegal vs. Undocumented. If I am a qualified driver and am driving without my paperwork with me, I am undocumented. If I am not a qualified driver and am driving anyway, I am illegal. Being pulled over and asked for my paperwork does not have any effect on my status; it merely exposes it.

The unalienable rights, granted to us by our creator, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Healthcare is not an unalienable right, to be granted to everyone regardless of effort level on their part. 

Let’s suppose that certain political types get their way over time and things like healthcare, food, housing, etc. are made free after being declared to be human rights. Why would anyone work? What would the motivation be? Can anyone make the case that the people voting for more and more free things–including a universal basic income–would be in any way motivated to work? If people are voting for free things and they are getting them, there would be little motivation to do anything but vote for more free things. 

Separately, does anyone believe that the politicians supporting making more and more things free would in any way motivate their supporters to work for their money, rather than simpy vote for them for their money? Let’s hear from three justifiably famous and wise voices:

“A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.” –Alexis de Tocqueville

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end.” –Alexander Hamilton

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Benjamin Franklin

This wisdom is as old as the world’s oldest democracy, America. Yes, America is the world’s oldest democracy. How much longer will we be able to make that claim?

Returning specifically to healthcare, the goal should be to come up with a way to allow reasonable access to affordable, quality healthcare. Note the podcast title question is not, “Should everyone have access to healthcare?” The answer to that question is a loud and hearty “Yes. Absolutely!”. For those who feel that healthcare is a right, remember that in most cases people can live longer without healthcare than without food. And lack of housing and clothing can easily lead to health problems, as well as a poor quality lifestyle and an unsuccessful life overall. The “healthcare is a human right” argument can quickly lead to the conclusion that food, clothing and shelter are also rights.

Okay, Will, what does “reasonable access” mean. Let’s start by returning to a chart I created and have referenced before, the Can’t vs. Won’t chart. 

There are two axes. The horizontal axis has Just Won’t on one side, and hard work over time but still Can’t on the other. The vertical axis has Temporary on the top, and Permanent on the bottom. There is a Decision Slider that moves horizontally and vertically. Before money is passed out, decisions need to be made, e.g., are certain people simply unwilling or actually unable to work, and are their issues temporary or permanent? No money should ever to to the “Won’ts; conversely, lifetime support must go to those with permanent needs. These decisions, moving the Decision Slider, will never be precise, and will often need to change as circumstances change. But much good will come from politicians, voters and bureaucrats asking these questions and making decisions based on the answers–not based on politics. More importantly, a world of good will come from individuals asking themselves these questions. And growing and changing as they answer them.

A teaser: The main driver in healthcare is the cost of medical services themselves, not the regulated insurance company profits. Here are four things we can do to significantly reduce the cost of drugs and medical services:

  1. Tort reform; make suing medical professionals less of a booming industry, while still providing justice for the victim and punishment for the perp. Medical malpractice insurance is a big driver of healthcare costs. For example, malpractice costs a physician in Minnesota anywhere from $4,000 to $17,000 per year–with surgeons at the high end. In California, a surgeon can expect to pay anywhere from $22,000 to $34,000 per year.
  2. Allow private insurers to compete across state lines. Did you know that was not allowed? Seems ridiculous, right? Wouldn’t prices rise rapidly in other industries if companies were not allowed to compete across state lines?
  3. Push an increase in supply of drugs and medical facilities and providers. Increased supply will help to contain prices. As it does with cars, computers, gas–and just about everything. The law of supply and demand is still a law.
  4. Give people some visibility into and control over the cost of the goods and medical services they consume. Having some skin in the game will make us all more price vigilant–and the providers know it.

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. 

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Don’t forget to visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Right To Health

Subsidized Self-Reliance (EP. 144)

As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

If you liked today’s podcast, other podcasts or the site itself, tell another person. Each One Reach One will help spread the word about Revolution 2.0™.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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8 Responses

  1. Brian Reply

    Regardless of where on falls on the idea of a right vs reasonable access, I imagine that most everyone would agree that the current healthcare system is not working well enough to meet the needs of the people. Whether due to socio-economic reasons, pre-existing conditions or something else, the cost of healthcare should not be so prohibitive that people cannot afford preventive services or go bankrupt when they have a serious event. As you mentioned, two changes that could help are tort reform and price transparency. As I think about key issues, healthcare being one of them, I have a growing sense of helplessness in being able to influence change and can understand the sentiment of making it a right when there is doubt in the prospect of progressive changes to promote reasonable access. My fear is that the lobbying / contributions are too strong and the partisan divide too wide.

  2. Kevin M Pereau Reply

    This kind of one dimensional thinking is dangerous and intellectually lazy. It didn’t take long to “virtue signal” immigration as a justification for healthcare not being a basic right and for patients suing Doctors as a key driver of costs. Can we stop building straw men and address the real problems we are trying to manage in healthcare? Why focus on just one of our aims? Does the podcaster even know the real challenges we are getting our arms around? Big hint…access is only one of our challenges and there are three. Healthcare is not free whether it is private or public. Diabetes just doesn’t care who is paying your bills. Finally, not a word about quality of care? Retrench, refocus and relaunch your healthcare series. This one misses it’s mark.

    • Will Luden Reply

      For the Revolution 2.0™ followers, here is an example of a cut-and-paste, one-size-fits all critique. I have money that Mr. Pereau did not read the episode; he certainly did not respond to a single specific. And note, “Does the podcaster even know the real challenges we are getting our arms around?” Speaking of intellectually lazy…:).

  3. Dana Coffee Reply

    Will, thanks for inviting dissenting discourse.

    Respectfully, I dare say you never had a day in your life you didn’t have full and even superior access to health care. Did you earn it as a child? No, you lucked out. Arguments could be made about your intrinsic right to that kind of healthcare as a result of your family’s economic status and what that was built on, but we don’t need to go there.

    Beyond the simplistic, alarmist deduction that “we can’t pay for everybody’s healthcare”, we’d go broke!” it might pay to consider what lack of humane and access to high-quality health care means to our society as a whole and how it helps us all thrive. I read your whole post. Even for the element that could work and isn’t, why make it harder on the children and the other dependents in the family to not have good health care or to have to needlessly endure the effects of a family member with a grave, chronic, debilitating illness? And how does mental health and depression play a part in destabilizing one’s ability to work?

    Here is an article from the Associated Press on the subject of how people getting good health care is beneficial for us all:

    Kind regards,


    PS. I also didn’t see in your post a suggestion for change to the insane pharmaceutical lobbying that prevents Medicare from being able to buy medicine competitively. Do you have an idea what that costs taxpayers? What is up with that?

    • Will Luden Reply

      Dana, thank you for stating your position. Be careful about making assumptions about others, core assumptions upon which you rest your argument. Especially when you know nothing about them. I had no medical, dental or vision (uncorrected vision is 20/800) insurance for several years post my time in the US Army; my teeth are still showing the signs of that neglect. I am now on Medicare, which, as you know from the episode, is inferior to employer-based healthcare–and deteriorating.

  4. Geoffrey Haines Reply

    A couple of points: 1) In 1948 the World Health Organization said that access to health care was a basic right of every person on earth;
    2) A number of US Presidents including both Roosevelt’s and Richard Nixon advocated a form of single payer health insurance;
    3) Currently the federal government provides complete health care for all federal employees, military veterans and members of Congress
    4) After 2 horrendous wars within some 31 years Europeans demanded and got various forms of universal health care in their countries;
    5) Industrial countries around the world all have better and cheaper cost per patient than we do. What do they know that we don’t?


    • Will Luden Reply

      Hi Geoff, many thanks for a thoughtful reply. Allow me to try to respond to each point, please. 1. I do not see the WHO as an organization that guides my thinking, but I do believe that reasonable access to healthcare is a human right. 1. Not surprised about FDR, very surprised about Reagan. 3. All of these people are covered by their employers, to wit, the taxpayers. 4./5. I do not see much of anything economically or politically in Europe that I would like to emulate. In Scandinavia, the model is robust capitalism and heavy taxation with many benefits including healthcare, being provided via those taxes. That model, relying for many years on a mutually trusting society, is beginning to break down with the major influx of immigrants who do not wish to assimilate. I will make you deal on single payer: Everyone goes on it, including Congress, and unions with so-called Cadillac healthcare plans. I’ll jump in, too. Cheers, Will P. S. My Medicare sucks. whl

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