Home » Blogs » Getting Older with Bipolar » Healthcare as a Human Right: The Case Against

Healthcare as a Human Right: The Case Against

Healthcare For All? Part Three:

The Bill of Rights establishes rights that are not to be restricted by government.   In the United States, freedoms of speech and assembly, the rights to bear arms and to due process, and prohibitions on the government from occupying or seizing most private property are all enumerated.

Doctrines of human rights also set out to guarantee liberties from government oppression.  What these long-cherished freedoms have in common is that they each limit government action.

A right to healthcare, on the other hand, when applied would increase government action toward and on individuals.  Instead of keeping government out of individual choices, it would move the government to provide a service that members of a sizeable minority, at present, are unable to secure.

The objections rest in the hesitation to make government larger and more intrusive, redistribute income and, in some proposals, interrupt free enterprise in the name of a right.

Not a liberty or a prohibition on meddling at all, healthcare as a human right would place a burden on one segment of the populace to take care of another.  And it would be expensive.

Granted, money is spent to guarantee certain rights.  Courts and law enforcement are necessary to provide due process and enforce contracts and protect private property holders, and the costs of these services are borne by the taxpayers.  But to fund these services does not insist on one taxpayer surrendering funds directly to support another citizen.

Calling healthcare a human right is integral to those demanding healthcare for all.  To meet this goal would require larger public/private partnerships, or the creation of a single payer system and the limitation or elimination of the private insurance market.

Public/private partnerships have been successful in the space program and defense, but results in healthcare since the introduction of the ACA have been mixed at best.  And it all costs more than expected as healthcare costs grow far beyond the rate of inflation and many individuals either choose not to participate in the program, or find participation too expensive or too difficult to understand.

People have rights to make individual choices about their lifestyle, but the establishment of healthcare as a human right would prompt calls, arguably justifiable, to limit these choices.

If one insists that others fund their healthcare (for in reality, it’s not the government that pays the bills, it’s other individuals through taxation) don’t those who pay the bills have the right to insist that the covered individual not squander the payers’ money by making the poor life choices that come with an unhealthy lifestyle?  Why should part of the populace have to sacrifice for another if some of those ill are sick as a result of their own unhealthy habits, freely chosen?

An individual, in forcing another individual (through something like Medicare for All) to pay their medical bills must ask themselves what things, ie: a better school for their kids, a house in a better neighborhood, savings for retirement, etc., the individual paying the bills must give up in order to fund illnesses caused by poor lifestyle choices.  How do we balance rights and responsibilities?

I think no one, not even those who deny healthcare is a human right, wants to see people suffer when help is readily available to others who face the same illnesses yet can pay for care.  And I think no one wants to see others suffer from illnesses that basic care would eliminate.

Provisions for those in poverty and children are necessary and should be provided in the name of social justice.  But claims that something that gives some a benefit while forcing others to pay for it without influence, thus expanding rights for some while limiting the rights of others; claims that something like this is a right are dubious and unprecedented.

On the other hand, something those on the right should consider when arguing that healthcare should be left to free market forces:  F. A. Hayek, Nobel Prize winning economist and hero of the libertarian/laissez faire ideology, believed in and advocated for universal healthcare.


This article is part of a series.

See part four, “Compassion in the Healthcare Debate” here

See part two, “Healthcare as a  Human Right:  The Case For” here

See part one, “Healthcare for All?” here

Healthcare as a Human Right: The Case Against

George Hofmann

After much of a life spent in and out of hospitals, jobs, and relationships, George has spent the last dozen years living successfully with bipolar disorder 1. He teaches meditation as an adjunct therapy for mental illness, and writes and speaks about the therapies of meditation, movement, and meaningful work. Visit George at or join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Hofmann, G. (2020). Healthcare as a Human Right: The Case Against. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Mar 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.