Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Matter of Constitutionality

When we say that all Americans have the right to health care, we need to be sure just what we're talking about. Are we discussing the right of Americans to have equal access to health care? If so, then we're on the same page.

But, are we talking about the right of Americans to have health care coverage paid for by the Federal government? If so, then could someone point out to me just where in the Constitution anyone is guaranteed health care? I haven't seen it, but maybe I've overlooked it or just don't understand what I'm reading. I'm not trying to be a smart aleck, I really do want to know if I'm missing something.

The Constitution is the set of rules our government operates from and which grants certain rights to its people. It's the basis of our laws in the United States. Laws can't be passed which are prohibited by the Constitution. It becomes confusing when the Constitution doesn't specifically address a specific situation such as abortion, or health care, issues that have become increasingly under the glare of national attention.

The "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" only very tenuously refer to health care under the "life" aspect. These rights actually come from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

I agree that the Constitution is a living document and must change as issues arise that the Founding Fathers could not have possibly envisioned. However, as a living document, that must evolve to continue to be of relevance, we must also be sure that changes to the Constitution are changes that are fundamental to the United States as a country and as a people, not a change made through a "whim", or a response to an issue that may be more emotional than fundamental. An example of such a change would be the 18th Amendment - a Constitutional amendment that abolished the manufacture, sale, transport, and consumption of liquor within the United States and its territories. Now, I didn't research the whys and wherefores of this Amendment. I'm sure that everyone involved thought it would be for the benefit of the American public to abolish liquor. It was ratified in 1919 and because of a change in public sentiment, it was repealed in 1933.

This is a law that in my opinion is an attempt to legislate morality. Abolish liquor and you abolish all the illegalities that accompany it: drunk driving, public intoxication, criminal activity such as protection, and I'm such many other illegal and immoral activities. I am not in favor of anyone drinking an amount that makes them be stupid (my definition of stupid is anything from being silly, to drunk driving, to physical attack on another person and more). Anyone who does so should be willing to face the consequences of their actions.

You might think I'm off point, but I'm not, really. Look at the Constitution. Does it say anything about drinking in the Constitution? How about morality? One may argue that passing amendments regarding voting (the right to vote to women and that race is no bar to voting) may be moralistic in nature, and I'm not sure that such an argument would be wrong. But history has proven that these amendments are not a passing fancy or a whim of the time, as was Prohibition.

In over two hundred years, there have been only twenty seven amendments, one of which was repealed less than 15 years later. In the preamble, the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments) and then the other 17 amendments, I see nothing that will give anyone the idea that health care is a "right" to be granted to an American citizen in the sense that other rights, such as the right to free speech, have been granted under the Constitution.

I'm not a Constitutional scholar, but it's a short read and pretty easy to understand. Health care doesn't fall under the Constitution as a fundamental right, so it must be a right that we are afforded as human beings, but not necessarily as American citizens.

I agree that every American should have equal access to health care. No one should be denied, especially health care that would save a life. I believe that we need an overhaul of the system, but perhaps it should begin with the insurance industry rather than the health care end. It's the insurance side that decides what procedures will be paid for. It's the insurance end that decides who qualifies for health insurance. It's the insurance end that decides how much the insurance company will pay for medications and procedures and how much will be paid for by the insured - you.

It's been said that the Canadian health care system is the model we should strive for. Why then, did the Premier of Newfoundland (I apologize if the title is incorrect) come to the US for heart surgery? Canadians regularly come to the US for procedures it would take weeks or months to get in Canada. We go to Canada for the same medications that we would get in the US, but pay a lot less in Canada than in our own pharmacies. Maybe we need to take a look at the Canadian pharmacy for direction.

It's not Constitutional that Americans receive health care. It is morally imperative that every American citizen have access to health care.

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