In reading, Is There a Right to Health Care and, If So, What Does It Encompass, Norman Daniels examines a long debated question that has come to the forefront of American politics recently with the passing of the Affordable Care Act. Daniels reviews two major arguments in favor of (as well as their pitfalls) a universal right to health care: health care as a requirement of justice and health care as a requirement for equal opportunity. Briefly, those who see health care as a requirement of justice hold the utilitarian view that providing health care benefits society as a whole because preventing or curing disease or disability allows people to function in ways that contribute to aggregate welfare. However a utilitarian argument is not without controversy as this belief view gives no justification for investing in health care if those resources could produce a larger net welfare when invested in other ways. A utilitarian view also leads to the idea of cost benefit analysis, where resources should be invested in health care that provides the greatest net welfare based on investment (we will study this more later in the semester).
The second argument Daniels examines is health care as a right to equality of opportunity. The foundation of this view is that disease and disability restrict the range of opportunities that would otherwise be open to individuals and thus in order to have a fair society we have the obligation to provide health care. However, this raises the question of just how far should health care investment go to level the playing field. Outside of curing illness, health care intervention can possibly raise ones intelligence, height, or cognitive function. Does this fall under the scope of equality of opportunity? Finally, Daniels touches on the question of just how equal everyones rights must be. If as a society we are able to agree on what health care coverage should encompass, should those who have the means to go beyond that be able to? Or should they only be allowed the same access of everyone else? These are just a few of the many interesting topic Norman Daniels covers in this weeks readings. Please feel free to react to any topics from the readings that are of interest to you.