Last updated on: 3/16/2010 | Author:

Michael F. Cannon, MA, JM Biography

Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute
Con to the question "Should All Americans Have the Right (Be Entitled) to Health Care?"

“Suppose Congress created a legally enforceable right to health care…

The first difficulty would be to define the scope of that right. Do we have a right to preventive care? If so, health care spending (and taxes) would explode…With the wide variety of tests and treatments, someone must decide where the right to health care ends, lest the nation be bankrupted. Whoever makes those decisions will wield enormous power over people’s health. Who should have that power? Most nations hand that power to unelected bureaucrats, who ration medical care — often by making even seriously ill patients wait for care.

A second and related difficulty is the question of who pays. By definition, a right to health care could not be conditioned on ability to pay. Delivering on that right would require additional taxes proportionate to the scope of that right.

A third difficulty is the incentives created by a right to health care. Patients would demand far more medical care because additional consumption would cost them little. Higher tax rates would discourage work and productivity, yielding less economic growth and wealth…

A fourth difficulty is how to deliver all this medical care. Declaring health care to be a right does nothing to solve the problem of getting the right resources to the right place at the right time…

Finally, if health care really were a fundamental human right, Americans presumably would have no greater a right to medical care than Indians or Haitians. If we truly believe that everyone has an equal right to health care, we would have to tax Americans to provide medical care to nearly every nation in the world.

The fundamental problem with the idea of a right to health care is that it turns the idea of individual rights on its head. Individual rights don’t infringe on the rights of others… A right to health care, however, says that Smith has a right to Jones’ labor. That turns the concept of individual rights from a shield into a sword.
The underlying goal of a legally enforceable right to health care is to provide quality medical care to the greatest number possible. Perversely, making health care a ‘right’ would make that goal harder to attain.”

“A ‘Right’ to Health Care?” National Review Online, June 29, 2007

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Director of Health Policy Studies, Cato Institute
  • Former domestic policy analyst, US Senate Republican Policy Committee
  • JM (Juris Master), Law and Economics, George Mason University
  • MA, Economics, George Mason University
  • BA, American Government, University of Virginia
  • None found
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Should All Americans Have the Right (Be Entitled) to Health Care?