Obama to GOP: Health insurance is now a 'right.' Is he right?
Two months away from opening day of Obamacare, President Obama made a forceful defense of what he called the ‘right’ to health insurance. Republicans say they can’t find that right in the Constitution, and some are calling for Americans to 'burn their Obamacare cards' in protest.
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The debate about whether health insurance is a right, or even a privilege, has been going on for decades. Mr. Obama, in fact, used the word during the 2008 presidential debates, and has made similar arguments hence.
But Obama’s assertion in his Saturday address ratcheted up the stakes for the coming enrollment opening for Obamacare, a law passed solely by Democrats in 2010, which makes health insurance affordable for millions of poorer Americans, but penalizes Americans who don’t want to buy health insurance.
While Obama used the word “right” as a cudgel against ongoing efforts by Republicans to defund the law, the remark is sure to fuel debate over the extent to which the right to health insurance may diminish other rights actually enumerated in the Constitution, such as the right to personal liberty and property.
“I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to make sure this law works as it’s supposed to,” Obama said in his recorded radio address. “Because in the United States of America, health insurance isn’t a privilege – it is your right. And we’re going to keep it that way.”
Obama and other progressives have long couched the issue of healthcare as a moral one, where the country has an obligation to protect the health of everyone, even the millions of Americans who can’t afford health insurance and are thus relegated to county clinics and emergency rooms for healthcare.
In confirming the Affordable Care Act as constitutional last summer, the Supreme Court didn’t expressly call it an individual right, but ruled that the “federal government has the right to regulate human behavior by taxing it,” as Texas Tech University law professor Arnold Loewy put it in a recent column in the Lubbock, Texas, Avalanche-Journal.