Conservatives and libertarians agree on most issues, right?  You would be surprised at how quickly two members of the same party diverge on the small points of their ideology.  In this recurring series on Liberty Nation, we ask tough questions and probe the complicated issues of our respective political principles.  So, dust off that Disqus account and join us in the comments below, we want to hear what you think!

This week, as we let emotions cool regarding the Syria strike, we return to the topic of healthcare.  First, a quiz.  Who said this?

Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege.

If you answered Bernie Sanders, you would be correct!  However, this is increasingly the view on the left, and indeed, the nation as a whole.  According to a Gallup poll, 52% of Americans believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage.

The odds are that most conservative-leaning readers on this site would agree that healthcare is not a right.  However, let’s peel back the onion a bit.  Consider the following few scenarios:

  • A young boy collapses at school. His mother meets him at the hospital where doctors tell her that the boy’s kidneys are failing and he needs to be on dialysis and eventually receive a transplant.
  • A thirty-year-old husband and father of two finishes his shift as a dishwasher, and heads home late at night on his bicycle. He is hit by a drunk driver, who flees the scene and is never caught.  He ends up in the hospital with severe but not life-threatening injuries and requires surgery to reconstruct his left leg.
  • A middle-aged woman suffers a heart attack while out shopping. Bystanders call an ambulance, and she is rushed to the emergency room where doctors discover she needs emergency bypass surgery.
  • A senior citizen is changing a light bulb falls and cuts open his arm. After a few days of home treatment, the wound is obviously infected, and he is now running a fever.  He goes to a walk-in clinic, where a doctor says he must clean and dress the wound and prescribe antibiotics and a tetanus shot.

Should any of these people receive a bill for their visits?  Should the government pay for the boy to receive dialysis and kidney transplants?  Should the father receive government-funded reconstructive surgery so he can get back to work instead of going on disability?  After stabilizing the woman, should the doctors proceed with the bypass surgery?  Should the senior citizen receive the care he needs for his infected arm?

Interestingly enough, each one of these people may be covered by an existing government program.  Assuming they were, their care would largely be covered with little to no out of pocket expense.  CHIP, Medicaid, and Medicare are all federally funded programs (with some state overlap) designed to help the poor and the old. However, above certain income levels, citizens become ineligible for CHIP and Medicaid.  If the mother made $35,000 a year yet did not have insurance, her child would not be eligible for CHIP.  If the woman were single, she would not qualify for Medicaid, regardless of income.  If the father were earning over $50,000 at his freelance job, he would also be ineligible.  If the senior were under the age of 65, they would not be eligible for Medicare.  Indeed, it is possible that all four families did not meet the criteria for government funded healthcare, and did not have private insurance either.  If that were the case, what then?

So, what do you think?  Should federal health care coverage exist at all?  If so, is it acceptable that it phases out at certain income levels or ages?  If not, what do we do with the uninsured when tragedy strikes?  Is healthcare a right?  Moreover, if not a right, is it at least a benefit that our government should be providing to all citizens?  How should our nation handle people who earn enough to afford health insurance but choose not to purchase it?  What about their children?

These are tough questions with many personal and ethical issues at play.  Let us know what you think as we dialogue together in our comments section below.

Dan Ingram

Business Correspondent at Liberty Nation
Dan is a freelance writer specializing in finance, economics, and tax policy. He is a U.S. Army veteran and holds an MBA in Information Technology Management.He resides in New England with his wife and young son.