Entitlement is such an ugly attitude. I lament that we have become a nation of individuals who feel entitled to so much. Undoubtedly, one cause of this is the old American adage, “I just want my child to have it better than I had it.” So parents, wanting to provide for their children, give them things instead of making their children earn them. But do we really want them to have it better than we had it? When asked directly about this, I will tell you that what I really want is for my child to “be a better person” than I, not “have it better” than I. And yet, so often, I behave in accordance with the latter.
A sense of entitlement has permeated our attitude as Americans. Even those of us who are small-government, conservative, Republican (label, label, label) find ourselves addicted to government, and like a crack addict we can’t even begin to imagine weaning ourselves off of this addiction.
Take health care for example. Many will tell you that we have a health care crisis in our country and that all citizens should have health insurance. The delivery method may differ based on who you talk to, but the premise is the same. A recent advertisement in Newsweek for AARP says “Everybody has the right to affordable quality health care….” Is that true? If so, why is it true? What part of our society or governmental structure makes health care a right? We might go back to the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Does THIS entitle us to health care? Unfortunately, this phrase is from the Declaration of Independence, not the U.S. Constitution, and thus provides us with no legal basis for an argument. Searching the Constitution itself we find it void of such provisions.
So what is the source of our sense of entitlement to health insurance? Unfortunately, it’s self-created. We are frustrated that there isn’t universal health care but frustration comes from unmet expectations. When we expect something we begin to feel we have a right to it and when that right is denied we feel disappointment and frustration.
Politicians have been creating this expectation for years, promising all Americans universal health cares. These campaign promises have created a belief that we have a right to universal health care. But as much as I want it, I can’t find any inherent basis for that sense of entitlement. The American way is democratic and market driven. It is the exercise of liberty in pursuit of a way of life that pleases us—the pursuit of happiness. In the current American market place, health care IS provided to many. Access to health care benefits is the result of market forces and people’s personal choices. If health care benefits are an individual’s goal then the individual should choose to pursue a career path that provides it. I’m troubled when I hear those without health insurance give voice to their frustration over its absence. This frustration stems from their sense of entitlement to health care benefits.
Politicians who promise universal health care create their own problems and create an electorate frustrated by unmet expectations. Addressing health care as a reward for achieving a certain professional benchmark would be a more realistic approach and more consistent with the American free market system. As much as a caring and compassionate people would like to view it otherwise, health care is simply another benefit provided to employees like a company car.
Insurance companies exist to make a profit. There is no intrinsic attitude of benevolence, compassion or philanthropy. They exist to receive our money, invest it and hold the profits, all while hoping that the consumer does not make claims against their policy. It is corporate gambling. We, the consumer, want so much more from our health care system. Because the system deals with the lives of people, their own health, the health of loved ones, the sanctity of life itself, we expect that insurance companies will be sympathetic to our claims for benefits. But they simply live by the benefits handbook. If you paid for a certain level of benefits then you receive those benefits. If you didn’t then you don’t. Their attitude, and rightly so, is that if you want to change the conditions of the wager, that is, you want the potential for a higher payoff on a bet with longer odds, then you must make a greater wager yourself and pay more in health care premiums. A small wager on our part will never yield a large payout by the “house.”
Having a son with autism who is routinely denied benefits, I can, at times, find myself arguing for his benefits on the basis of compassion, asking, “How can you deny him access to the health care he needs to get better?” The real answer–that no insurance company will say–is, “You lost the bet. You didn’t wager enough to win the payout you’re looking for.” My attitude can reflect a sense of entitlement on my behalf. (Quite the quandary I find myself in now, isn’t it?)
When Americans argue for illegal immigration based on the idea that consumer prices are kept lower, we pay tribute to our capitalist ideology and to our warped and misplaced sense of priorities. But it is the same argument that one must use in evaluating the availability of health care benefits. If they are provided to everyone, then that cost must be assumed somewhere in the economy. Each individual consumer will have to pay a higher cost in order to pay the insurance companies who will manage the health care system. Are we willing to bear these costs? Are we so concerned with the plight of the uninsured that we will pay more at the register?
It IS a shame that all people don’t have health insurance, but not because the government is remiss in its obligation to provide it, but because the lack thereof is reflective of the American emphasis on profit over people, lives, and relationships. Certainly, costs would rise throughout the economy, but taxes might go down as federal, state and local governments became less responsible for the uninsured. But this ought not to be an economic discussion. It ought to be a discussion about an America which values life and puts its money where its mouth is. As an authentically conservative, pro-life American, I would hold in great esteem a government which consistently values the protection of life. Not because Americans are entitled to it, but because our collective moral compass compels us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Until such time, however, we find that the choice of who has health insurance and who doesn’t is left to the worker himself. Choices have consequences. Americans who eschew education will find themselves in jobs without health care. Americans who make poor choices with their bodies will find themselves without health care. Some people say this isn’t fair. But no one wants life to be fair. They want it to be unfair in their favor. It would be unfair if someone achieved a benefit without paying for it. It would be unfair for someone to take that which they haven’t earned. What IS fair is that all Americans have access to some level of health care benefits even today. They simply need to learn how to access it—through education, hard work, and character.
So therein lays our solution. Our goal should not be to reinforce the growing sense of entitlement by providing universal health care. It should be to teach values and morals; to teach the relationship between choices and consequences; to reinforce long term thinking and planning; to teach personal responsibility and accountability. These are the personal premiums required to access health care in the United States.