Let me just premise this for anyone who does not regularly read, that I live in Canada. I have no knowledge working or otherwise of other socialized healthcare systems. So if you live in say the UK some of what I say may not be applicable.
I recently read a conservative US blog in which the bloggers asserted that healthcare is not a right. First of all, as a moderate I was dismayed. And secondly as a Catholic I was appalled. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has repeatedly said basic healthcare is in fact a right.
Some of the most common arguments against healthcare is that 1)it's forcing the physician to perform a service and 2) healthcare is a good or service.
Let's address the second first. Healthcare, housing, education, and religious freedom are spoken as rights by the USCCB. When they say rights, they are talking about access. If for example a person is stabbed multiple times, regardless of the person's ability to pay, they have the right to have access to life-saving medical care that any wealthy person also has. To deny that person access is to essentially allow for their murder. This sort of thing rarely happens in the United States because people, regardless of ability to pay, usually are given life-saving care. Doctors usually don't rifle through wallets to look for money or insurance cards. So to say things like healthcare is not a right (but rather it's a good or service that is not guaranteed access to) falls a little short. In a way, the US already has standards of medical care that require access. At least for immediate life-saving care.
For basic medical care that is not immediate life-threatening, that is where the USCCB and conservative bloggers disagree. Which brings up the first point.
Education is the United States is both compulsory and in that vein having access to basic education is a right. It is provided for by the individual states. I was a teacher. It was a career I chose knowing full well that regardless of gender and race and ability to pay, I would educate children. I also knew that if I wanted to teach a Catholic-based morality I was safer teaching in a private school setting, which is usually to some extent regulated by the state. Certainly what I would teach them would also be dictated. To an extent, I can object to what I teach. As a music teacher, if I find myself suddenly thrust into teaching P.E. I could object since that's not what I signed up for. If I find my working environment not very good (for whatever reason), I'm not a slave. I'm free to quit and pursue a different career. And since I know longer work as a teacher, I did quit and pursue other interests, namely staying home with my children.
Likewise being in the medical field has some inherent restrictions. Doctors and nurses understand this when they sign on for employment. If a Jehovah's witness wants to be a family doctor, they know that 1) they can't exactly refuse life-saving care to the stabbing victim if they cross paths but 2) they can refuse blood transfusions during surgery since they are trained family doctors, not surgeons. They also aren't slaves. They can quit.
It seems a bit disingenuous to claim doctors are being forced when they know exactly what it is they are getting into and can opt out. Unfortunately for the stabbing victim, they can't opt out. They'd die.
This leaves one in a quandary when the medical field is largely privatized and education (which is equally a right) is largely public. To combat this in Canada, they make basic healthcare something the government takes care of. This has a number of problems: 1) what is basic and who decides this and 2) loss of freedom of choice.
In Canada what is considered basic has not been strictly defined by the government. Rather it's the voters of the individual provinces who dictate what is basic or not. In Ontario, for example abortions are considered basic healthcare even if people object because of religious reasons. Oddly, things like prescription drug coverage (even for life saving drugs), dental care, and vision care for adults is not considered basic. In other words, you have to have supplemental insurance that you pay for or pay for it out of your pocket.
All of this is paid for by taxes. You cannot opt out. And what is basic healthcare coverage is the same for all persons (exception made for children who have vision coverage). This means you loose the freedom of choice. Someone did tell me that not to long ago Alberta allowed people to opt out of healthcare coverage and instead have their own privatized insurance. But that loophole has since been closed.
How is that applicable to the US as it moves closer and closer to socialized medicine?
Well I don't think socialized medicine is necessarily a bad thing. I think that having the voters dictate the type of covered benefits is crucial since I don't think abortion is a basic healthcare right. I, however, believe that people should have the right to opt out. The Amish, for example, are allowed to opt out of Medicare and Social Security. It can just as easily be anyone who has an objection to the type of socialized care to opt out. Currently we have a system where insurance is privatized and only those who are too poor or above a certain age have the ability to opt into a public healthcare insurance. Why not open that option to all persons? Why do we continue to try and run our healthcare as largely private instead of the other way around? Cannot the two systems work together in a large population that the US has? A number of countries have done a number of different things to help their healthcare including making insurance private but non-profit based. Would that also help people gain more access and lower premiums?
At any rate, basic healthcare is a right according to the USCCB, and Catholics need to be figuring out better ways to open up access to more people. Obama thinks he knows how, but I disagree with his course of action. Forcing people to have insurance is a restriction of freedom. How about the government loosening it's reigns on healthcare instead? At any rate, having a physician deny seeing you because of an ear infection and lack of funds is silly and potentially dangerous. We shouldn't be forcing people to wait to the point that they clog emergency rooms. Something needs to change.