A right to free healthcare is implied in the Constitution
July 16, 2009 · 1:39 PM
J.M. Mezzanotte’s July 3 letter to the editor (“Our ‘rights’ spelled out in the Constitution”) speculates that I am compassionate, generous and young.
I don’t know how the author knows this, but I’ll take the compliments.
In any case, I dispute Mezzanotte’s portrayal of my understanding of the Constitution and of the healthcare proposals being debated in Congress and in the Washington State Legislature.
I understand the Constitution as a social contract, and as any contract, there are rights, benefits and responsibilities assumed by all the parties.
I agree with Mezzanotte that our rights ultimately derive from God. The Founding Fathers were very wise in that they purposefully did not list every right given to man.
The 9th Amendment states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Furthermore, the preamble to the Constitution speaks of forming a “more perfect Union”, not “the” perfect union, implying that the Constitution left some things unwritten, and should be expanded in the future.
The preamble of the Constitution also lists purposes of our government’s existence — to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
These are the benefits we receive in exchange for certain responsibilities, which include following and upholding the law and paying our taxes.
With respect to the healthcare debate, we must ask whether it “establishes Justice” that 46 million people do not currently have health insurance.
We must ask whether denying coverage to the sick “insures domestic Tranquility.”
We must ask whether “the general Welfare” is promoted by allowing people to show up in the emergency room with costly conditions that could have been prevented.
I believe the answers to these are an emphatic no, no and no.
Universal healthcare is both a benefit and an individual responsibility that exists implicitly in the Constitution and ought to be formally defined through legislation.