03/29/2012 04:03 pm ET Updated May 29, 2012

The Constitution and Health Insurance

Are there ways in which the Constitution isn't the inerrant guidelight we were taught to think of it as in secondary school? That is, what about airplane security?

But I am thinking specifically about health care. As Glenn Beck so notably argued, "The Constitution doesn't guarantee health care as a fundamental right."

Right. But it has become awfully important to us as Americans and as human beings. And, damn it, they get it as a basic right in other countries! Are they better off than we are because they don't have a Constitution?

Having introduced that question, I'll now leave it for Constitutional scholars to ponder.

But what I'm really thinking about is how we argue the entire heath care debate in terms of personal choices (which may be violated by a mandate to purchase insurance), the rights of businesses and free enterprise (as in, let insurance companies compete to make us the best offers from which to choose our health plans), and a kind of you're-on-your-own, personal freedom philosophy that our founding fathers thought in terms of, but which now seems largely to benefit some very rich and powerful people who control much of all of our lives.

Which leaves us -- where? As a nation, wanting more secure access to our wonderful doctors for ourselves and our children, anxious about how we can afford insurance (or, as seniors, which I am, about how much Medicare covers). Quite understandably, we want more coverage, and to pay no more (please God, maybe even less?) for it.

But personal health care costs continue to rise sharply for everyone, more so than they do in those countries without Constitutions.

As one example of an alternative universe, consider New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's recent description of health care in Australia and New Zealand: "Conservatives in Australia and New Zealand have also long accepted single-payer national health care systems." Friedman explains:

There are many reasons for the narrowness of the political spectrum here, Johansson added. Neither New Zealand nor Australia are strong churchgoing countries, so social issues don't resonate as much. Both being isolated, sparsely populated, pioneering communities -- New Zealand has only 4.5 million people -- they have strong egalitarian traditions and believe the state has a role to play in making sure everyone gets a fair shake.

"We also have compulsory voting," said Turnbull [Malcolm Turnbull, former leader of Australia's main conservative party]. You get fined if you don't vote. "In a voluntary voting system like yours, there is always the temptation to run hard on hot-button issues that will fire up the base and get them out to vote. In a compulsory voting system, your base has to vote -- as does everyone else -- and so the goal is to target the middle ground."

Wait a second -- doesn't that last bit violate the Constitution?

We're in a sad situation, our American lot, many of us a bad illness or an accident or a denial by an insurance company away from losing our precarious balance in life.

And is this all written in the Constitution?