Health care is not a right

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In 2003, I was viciously ill for three weeks. I remember it painfully well.

I was living in a moldy little cottage beside Sebago Lake, and for three weeks my body fought against what I later learned was a severe dust allergy. I was just plain miserable. Every sickness I’ve had since is measured against that awful experience.

Now I’m waging another epic battle against microorganisms, and I’m losing badly. So badly, I’m raising the white flag and actually going to the doctor. I made a deal with myself that if I didn’t feel better within a week, I’d get myself checked out. I’m very cheap, so you better believe I’m sick if I’m going to shell out for a doctor’s visit and the possible medication I’ll have to buy as a result.

My recent misery, however, isn’t for naught. It has made me realize a few things about health and the whole debate over health insurance.

I keep seeing people on the news carrying protest signs indicating that health care is a right. It is not a right. That might be the biggest lie the left has in its arsenal.

Right now, we receive health care from willing doctors and nurses. We receive life-saving medicine from people who voluntarily work to develop these medications. None of them are forced to provide us health care. They do it because they want to and because they get paid. It’s a pretty good system for both patient and provider, based on free-market capitalism.

When people thoughtlessly say health care is a right, they are taking for granted the fact there are plenty of willing and knowledgeable doctors, nurses and allied health professionals able to help those who get sick.

Imagine a world where no one wants to make their living in health care. Or imagine a world where no one is smart enough to become a health provider. There are no life-saving drugs because, well, people are too stupid to come up with them. As a result, we would still get sick, but there’d be nobody and no drugs to take care of us.

Health care is provided by people. Willing people. You can’t force someone to provide health care. The system relies on people who are motivated by internal forces, rather than external forces.

I get worried when I hear liberals talk about health care being a right because they are forgetting half the equation. Health care requires a provider, and you can’t force someone to provide your right. Hence, it’s not a right. It’s more like a happy occurrence that someone is able to restore your health.

Actually, to take it a step further, we know some diseases can’t be fixed. In those cases that end in failure, has the doctor violated a person’s right to proper health care? Of course not.

Protesters who say health care is a right are actually just a hop, skip and a jump from advocating for authoritarianism, where the government can force people to work. Let’s hope we never live in a country where government ever has that kind of power.

Second, while I’m thankful our health-care system is excellent and is filled with capable professionals, I’m not all that thrilled with the state of health insurance. I’m old enough to remember when people had insurance with low deductibles and low premiums. Families now pay $15,000-$20,000 a year in coverage, and that’s just to cover a premium.

Personally, I’ve always opted for a catastrophic health plan because it was affordable. Such a plan will provide coverage should I get cancer or some other major problem, but is absolutely no help in the run-of-the-mill stuff like my current illness. My deductible is so high that I have to spend $5,000 of my own money annually before my insurance kicks in. I’m sure many readers are in the same boat.

And that’s in addition to the biweekly premium that comes out of our paychecks. The high costs, incurred before we even visit a doctor, leaves me feeling like I really don’t have health insurance, since I have to pay so much up front. And it means I avoid going to the doctor, except in dire emergencies.

This kind of situation demands a solution. I’m eagerly anticipating the Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare. Just as I don’t have the knowledge needed to become a nurse or doctor, I certainly don’t have a prescription for fixing the insurance system. But I’m hoping there are those who do, and will wait to hear their diagnosis.

As long as this illness doesn’t kill me first.

John Balentine. a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.