Before answering that question, it is essential to define exactly what rights are. The only truly valid rights are God-given Natural Rights. Thomas Jefferson articulated the most accurate definition of a God-given Natural Right when he stated so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence:
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
These rights are granted to every single individual directly by God. George Mason echoed these sentiments when he wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776
SECTION I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Liberty is second only to life when it comes to importance. Here is how Thomas Jefferson described liberty in a letter to Isaac Tiffany
…rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual
I have always defined liberty as the freedom to do as you wish as long as you do not hurt others or interfere with the rights of others. It is freedom with the responsibility to not harm others or infringe on the rights of others. If someone harms another individual or interferes with the rights of another individual then government has the duty and moral obligation to step in, restrain, and punish the individual that caused the harm. Governments at all levels must leave individuals alone if they do not hurt others. A large percentage of the founding fathers of this nation believed the only legitimate functions of government are protecting the safety, property, and rights of individuals living in this country. Forcing individuals to purchase health insurance and interfering in the healthcare marketplace through onerous regulations violates the liberty of individuals and businesses.
The freedom to acquire property, hold on to property, and use property as you wish, are also essential God-given Natural rights. Income and wealth are both forms of property. The pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence refers to acquiring, holding, and using property. If a government body seizes an individual’s property, or income, and redistributes it to another person, that is a violation of a God-given natural right.
Here is what John Locke, the primary influence for all of the framers of the Constitution, had to say on this subject in his Second Treatise on Government:
the supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent. For the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily supposes and requires that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that by entering into society which was the end for which they entered into it; too gross an absurdity for any man to own. Men, therefore, in society having property, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law of the community are theirs, that nobody hath a right to take them, or any part of them, from them without their own consent; without this they have no property at all.
John Adams agreed. Here is what he had to say on this subject in “Defense of the Constitutions of of the Government of the United States:
The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence
Redistribution of wealth for charity and entitlements violates the United States Constitution. Here are three quotes that proves this:
James Madison Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 3rd Congress, 1st Session, page 170
I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.
James Madison Speech before Congress 1794
The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.
Thomas Jefferson 1st Inaugural Address
A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government,
The debate whether healthcare is a right or not first took center stage in this country back in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt first proposed national health care during his run as president for the progressive party. It was revived by President Truman in 1945 when he proposed national health insurance. President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, establishing healthcare as an entitlement that is provided by the Federal Government. Ben Shapiro discusses this deeply flawed notion that healthcare is a right in this National Review Article. Here are the most important passages from this article:
Morally, you have no right to demand medical care of me. I may recognize your necessity and offer charity; my friends and I may choose to band together and fund your medical care. But your necessity does not change the basic math: Medical care is a service and a good provided by a third party. No matter how much I need bread, I do not have a right to steal your wallet or hold up the local bakery to obtain it.
Because medical care is a commodity, and treating it otherwise is foolhardy. To make a commodity cheaper and better, two elements are necessary: profit incentive and freedom of labor. The government destroys both of these elements in the health-care industry. It decides medical reimbursement rates for millions of Americans, particularly poor Americans; this, in turn, creates an incentive for doctors not to take government-sponsored health insurance. It regulates how doctors deal with patients, the sorts of training doctors must undergo, and the sorts of insurance they must maintain; all of this convinces fewer Americans to become doctors. Undersupply of doctors generally and of doctors who will accept insurance specifically, along with overdemand stimulated by government-driven health-insurance coverage, leads to mass shortages.
This article by the Mises institute chronicles the disastrous effects making healthcare a right has had on the cost of healthcare in the United States and the problems caused by this deeply flawed thinking.
Benjamin Weingarten proposes a solution to our healthcare crisis in this Conservative Review Article
If government extricated itself from the system, we would see innovation and falling prices. One can imagine any number of solutions that the market would provide, including one in which people are able to purchase cheap catastrophic insurance and only pay for the medical care they need. They could shop for procedures from menus with transparent pricing. Health care would look more like The Cheesecake Factory than the Soviet supermarket.
For those who could still not afford sufficient medical care in a system of greater options and cheaper pricing, the private sector, faith and community-based institutions, and, if need be, a small and stringently managed government safety net would pick up the slack.
If a government safety net is used it would have to be administered by the States because the US Constitution prohibits the federal government from engaging in any entitlements.
My solution to the healthcare crises is to get the federal government out of healthcare completely and let each state come up with their own unique solution.