Recently, Kara McCullough was asked a question during the Miss USA competition whether she regarded health care as a right or a privilege. She responded that she considered it a “privilege,” but after a firestorm of criticism on social media, she clarified her statement to say that it was also a “right.” Regardless of what her thoughts on the matter truly are, the appearance was that she reversed her statement based on the backlash she received after she successfully won the pageant.
There are various definitions of the word “right” in the English language. There are actually two definitions that could apply here. Perhaps she should have asked for clarification. The one I assumed that was meant referred to our “rights as Americans,” meaning “legal entitlement.” That is to say, by law, we would have the right to universal health care, regardless of economic status, education, location, religion, age, condition, etc. The law would require that we be tended to from cradle to grave by doctors and hospitals without regard to our ability to pay or for any other reason, even if we were terminal.
That having been said, nothing in our American law says or implies that health care is a legal right for all, nor is there a precedent set for it. Our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are the documents providing the foundation by which our country has survived. Even a civil war, which severely tested our unity, did not undermine it. Hundreds of thousands of men and women died to preserve a union in which all men (and women) are created equal in the eyes of the law. We aren’t even told we are guaranteed to be happy, only that we have the right to pursue it.
Our founders worked diligently to provide a framework to ensure our maximum personal freedom, with a minimum of laws and rules to keep us safe and secure, and to provide the liberty to pursue our lives in a manner of our own choosing. They provided a system of self-government that was designed to protect those freedoms. It has provisions for changes within that framework to our laws and the Constitution.
The preamble to the Declaration of Independence states: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
One must ask themselves about the other meanings of “right” that the pageant judge might have meant, as there was no clarification. Other definitions for the noun include “that which is morally correct, just, or honorable” and “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” That last definition does not distinguish between the moral and legal aspects of “rightness.”
Now we are talking about “What should we do?” as opposed to “What are we obligated by law to do?” The option exists to enact a system of universal healthcare, if we choose to, via our representative republic. Is it morally right that we have universal health care? That is the question each of us must answer for ourselves. Note well, though, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to help make that decision.