On March 2, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in, McDonald v. City of Chicago. This case pertains to a Second Amendment challenge to Chicago's ban on handguns. From media reports, it appears the high court may be paving the way for gun rights on a national basis. A Chicago Tribune article had Justice Kennedy saying, " 'the individual right to bear arms' is a 'fundamental' right, like the other protections in the Bill of Rights." This got me to thinking about health care and how we should view it. Now, if at least one justice of our Supreme Court believes that owning firearms falls within the Bill of Rights, shouldn't being healthy be given (at least) the same pedestal as gun ownership?
Is health care simply a product to be bought and sold? Is it a right for a citizen like so many other industrialized nations view it? Is it a privilege attainable for only those who can afford it? Or, is it partially a responsibility of the government to ensure, like providing gas or oil for heat, or electricity to light up one's residence? Obama was asked about health care when he debated McCain in Nashville back in the Fall 2008. At the time, he said it was a right, and not a privilege or responsibility. Teddy Kennedy said it was a right at the last Democratic convention; so have many other--including this blogger a couple of months before Teddy spoke.
I'm not saying that health care is a right in a constitutional sense, for it is not specifically identified in the Constitution. We do know the Declaration of Independence declares that we are "endowed with un(in)alienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness", but issues of accessibility and affordability to health care were not in the forefront of the minds of the Founding Fathers--health care was generally available to all citizens back then, and was not as integral a part of the 1700s as it is of today's society--so it is doubtful that the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence intended health care within the scope of its words (although with Justice Kennedy saying owning guns should be a right, who knows?) We also know that the Supreme Court has previously interpreted the 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment clause to include guaranteeing health care to prisoners. Even the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 provides, "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one's family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care."
Health care affects every single American, like no other area of human existence and comprehension. Everyone knows what it is to be healthy and to be sick or infirm. Stated differently, but for being healthy, we cannot be productive to ourselves, our families, our employers, our communities, and, indeed in the end, to the nation's economy.
Perhaps if President Obama realizes that his opposition views health care as a commodity to be bought and sold, and not as he said many months ago now in Nashville, the road to enacting health care reform will be shorter. If owning a gun can become a right, at least in the view of Justice Kennedy, and prisoners who include those using those very guns to commit crimes are entitled to treatment, then isn't it about time to view the ability to afford and access health care more than just chopped liver?