Free Health Care: Right or Privilege?

The French media reports the passage of the health care reform bill as though it were the Emancipation Proclamation. Now, Americans have finally entered the modern world, they seem to say. Now, Americans have access to health care as a matter of right.

We’re suspicious of anything the French papers think is a good idea; they’re as bad as The New York Times.

That people think they have a “right” to health care just goes to show how little people think at all. “Rights” only make sense when they can be applied universally, without causing a “wrong” to someone else. You can have a right to own property, for example, because everyone can enjoy the right under the same terms and conditions. You can have a right to say what you like too…as long as everyone can say what he likes. But if you have the right to a cat scan, someone must have an obligation to make the machine…to put it in service…to run it…to maintain it…to offer it to you…and to interpret the results, etc. Who is this poor slave who has been shackled to your service?

According to the advertising, the health care bill is supposed to work miracles. It is supposed to reduce businesses’ health care costs, reduce the federal deficit, and lower insurance premiums. Of course, it will do none of those things.

“Now we’re really screwed,” says Jules, 22. “All you baby boomers are going to get more health care freebies and my generation is going to have to pay for it. Not only that, I’m going to have to buy health care insurance for myself.

“And the country is going down the tubes, too. It’s going to be just like every other government boondoggle program. It’s going to cost a fortune and make things worse. You know, I can’t believe they passed that bill. It was outrageous. They bribed everyone to get the bill passed. And even then, they couldn’t get Republicans to vote for it.”

France has a system of public health care that seems to work fairly well. On the two occasions when we’ve needed it…we found it efficient and dignified. One time, we were taken to the hospital in an ambulance; the local doctor thought we were having a seizure, a stroke or a brain tumor. It turned out to be an inner ear infection…but the service was good. No waiting. No problems. We were given tests…and it went away. Another time, Edward’s front teeth were knocked out in an accident while playing with the boy next door… He was rushed to hospital where the teeth were surgically re-implanted. Again, everything went well.

But France is not the USA and the French system is not at all what the Obama team has come up with.

The French system works as well as it does because the French are very critical, intolerant and demanding…of themselves as well as each other. At least, they used to be…

It is still rare to see a very fat person in France. People are expected to take care of themselves. They are expected to eat properly. Unlike the English, they do not drink to excess. And unlike Americans, they do not shoot each other on street corners. The concept of behaving “correctly” applies to ones’ health as well as to everything else. People are expected to act correctly – that is, in ways that do not put too much strain on the public health system.

What’s more, there is little ambulance-chasing by lawyers in France. Doctors and hospitals do not live in fear of lawsuits…and, in our experience, pharmacists give out advice, and medications, fairly freely.


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning