by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
The same day President Trump appeared on national television to discuss immigration, the government shutdown, and border security, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the City of New York will guarantee health care for everyone regardless of insurance or immigration status.
In all, the plan will cover 600,000 people, half of whom are illegal immigrants, and he claims he is going to do it for $100 million. In fact, argued the mayor, the program will not cost the city anything because of the savings realized from the dramatic reductions in emergency room care.
In defense of the plan, De Blasio averred that health care is a right and that it is time for New Yorkers to start conducting their affairs as such. Since the federal government is trying to disrupt our health care system, he proclaimed, it is time for New Yorkers to take matters into their own hands and guarantee people’s inherent right to health care.
Despite De Blasio’s uncontained enthusiasm, there are two fatal problems with his program. First, as we know and the left continues to ignore, health care is not a right. And second, his amazing program adds virtually nothing to what New Yorkers already have at their disposal. It’s all smoke and mirrors and empty pablum.
What is a right?
There are many different kinds of rights. First, there is the undisputed interest. This is what attaches when one has a just or legal claim or title upon a property or object, such as when one strikes gold in a Nevada minefield. Under those circumstances, the person owning the land or declaring his or her stake upon it has a right to that land and to the minerals within it. This right is commensurate with ownership or possession. Since health care is not a defined, palpable property, then this cannot be the type of right of which De Blasio speaks.
A right can also be statutory; created by government. In this case, the “right’ is given to you by the government. One example is the right to a trial by jury. Here, one has the undisputed access to a trial by jury because the state has declared it to be the so. This particular right is based on the foundational principles giving rise to the United States, the declarations contained within the Bill of Rights, and guaranteed by the constitutions of the various states.
A statutory right is not inherently yours, as the government has provided it for you. In other words, there would be no trial by jury; no trial at all in fact; if it weren’t for the fact that the government constructed the framework with which to provide it. Generally, this kind of right is associated with a price tag. It takes money to hire a defense attorney, a prosecuting attorney, a judge, and a building in which to conduct it. And yes, the jury is hired as well. Since no American government has declared a statutory right to health care, this too is not the type of right to which De Blasio is referring.
The third is the fundamental right, or human right; the ones the Founders called “inalienable.” These rights are afforded to us by the Creator. They belong to us. They are not for government to give or to take away, although under some circumstances, through the consent of the governed, government may regulate them. Our inalienable rights include a right to life, liberty, the pursuit of property, the right to labor, the right to speak, the right to seek the truth, the right to defend yourself, the right to bear arms, the right to your own beliefs, and of course, the right to pursue happiness. Each of these is yours by right. They are inherent in you.
It appears this last category of right is the one to which De Blasio refers when he speaks of a right to health care, but he would be wrong.
You cannot have a right to health care because you need others to realize it. What is yours, like the right to pursue happiness or property, is your right to pursue health care.
So, is health care a privilege? Yes, it is.
It is a privilege to have someone toil over you. It is a privilege to have someone attend to you. It is a privilege to have someone sell you something. So when De Blasio says health care is a right, he is wrong. It doesn’t matter how many times he says it and repeats it, and that all the liberals say it and repeat it. It doesn’t matter that 100% of all people are convinced that health care is a right, it still doesn’t make it a right because you can’t force another person to slave and toil over you to obtain the product or service.
What is a right is your freedom to approach someone offering the service and to ask him or her to provide the service. That is the pursuit of health care and that is your right. This is exactly in keeping with Benjamin Franklin’s words, “The Constitution only give people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
De Blasio says he is going to cover 600,000 people with $100 million. This would mean that his health care plan would cover 600,000 individual lives at a price tag of $167.00 per person per year.
Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.
But what De Blasio says he is going to achieve for New York for the first time in the city’s history, New York already has. New York City already spends $8 billion per year on health care to treat 1.1 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to care. This includes the undocumented. The effort traces back to the 18th century with the inception of Belleview Hospital. Anyone without insurance can go there to get treated, either through the emergency room or through a primary care doctor.
So if all these things already exist, what’s De Blasio offering that’s new?
Nothing really, just better customer service.
New York HHC Director Mitchell Katz said when asked on the matter, “You can definitely walk into any emergency room, you can go to a clinic, but what is missing is the good customer service to ensure that you get an available appointment. . . That’s what we’re missing and the mayor is providing.”
The New York Times seemed to agree when it wrote, “The $100 million would go to both establishing the customer service component and hiring additional doctors and nurses.”
Adding to the lacklusterness of the proposal is the uncertainty in the details, as is often the case when politicians try to take credit for nothing. According to The New York Times, “. . . officials could not provide a breakdown of how much would be spent on each [component of the program]. Indeed, details of how those seeking care could do so under the new plan were not immediately clear, nor was an exact start date.” The Federalist Pages met with the same problem in its review of De Blasio’s proposal.
The fact of the matter is that, predictably, the City of New York’s less-than-utopian system is already present and operating; with a shortfall, of course. For years New York’s hospital system has been under severe financial strain. Indeed, according to New York’s Independent Budget Office, New York hospitals anticipate budget shortfalls of more than $156 million in 2018, increasing to $1.8 billion in 2022.
As expected, De Blasio continues to deceitfully sell fake, utopic visions. It’s high time sound policy analysts call him out on it.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and cohost of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod. Dr. Gonzalez is presently serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.
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