Brief Foray into the "Health Care as a Right vs. Need" Discussion
Panda Bear and Emergiblog [sorry, Kim, but I can't find your specific posts; let me know and I'll edit/link], among others, have eloquently expounded on the topic of Health Care as a Right vs. a Need. This debate often brings up an analogy that I would like to point out is seriously flawed; too much so to be a valid comparison.
It is the analogy of health care to food, a subject near and dear to the hearts of many. The example is given that a commitment to subsistence nutrition does not equate to the right to walk into any restaurant and demand to be fed a five-course gourmet meal. "Basic" medical care available to all is considered the equivalent of not going hungry. This analogy is trotted out a lot, probably because it seems to make sense. Guaranteed health care doesn't have to be "all the bells and whistles;" just the "basics."
The analogy falls apart quickly, though. "Not starving to death" can be accomplished with a huge variety of diets costing anywhere from a few dollars to veritable fortunes per day. One's daily ration of calories (refusing to go into the whole issue of overeating/overnutrition for the purposes of this discussion) can just as easily be obtained by home cooking of thrifty supermarket purchases as it can by patronizing gourmet restaurants seven days a week. The utilization of excess resources to obtain a more exciting variety of food is irrelevant to the issue of starvation.
Medical care is different. Although it is tempting to talk about "routine health care" as things like immunizations and "routine checkups," the whole point of prevention is to detect health problems early and intervene before they become severe. Without including the means to deal with issues identified during routine checkups, "basic health care" is nothing more than a bad joke. What good is it to diagnose an early cancer without providing treatment for it? What good is providing treatment but no follow-up?
Medical care is like the part of the communist ideal that says "to each according to his need." No less, but no more. Advanced testing like MRIs or cardiac catheterizations are either necessary or not. Just because one can pay for it (or, more realistically, is able to purchase insurance that will pay for it) does not mean that unnecessary testing ought to be done. Conversely, patients with life-threatening conditions should not be refused ICU care because of their lack of financial resources.
Just throwing a monkey wrench into the arguments for and against "universal health care," "single payer," and other assorted attempts to solve the current mess that is the US health care "system."