The Cultural Moral Right to a Basic Minimum of Accessible Health Care
Menzel, Paul T
Kennedy Institute of Ethics journal 2011 Mar; 21(1): 79-119
(1) The conception of a cultural moral right is useful in capturing the social-moral realities that underlie debate about universal health care. In asserting such rights, individuals make claims above and beyond their legal rights, but those claims are based on the society's existing commitments and moral culture. In the United States such a right to accessible basic health care is generated by various empirical social facts, primarily the conjunction of the legal requirement of access to emergency care with widely held principles about unfair free riding and just sharing of costs between well and ill. The right can get expressed in social policy through either single-payer or mandated insurance. (2) The same elements that generate this right provide modest assistance in determining its content, the structure and scope of a basic minimum of care. They justify limits on patient cost sharing, require comparative effectiveness, and make cost considerations relevant. They shed light on the status of expensive, marginally life extending, last-chance therapies, as well as life support for PVS patients. They are of less assistance in settling contentious debates about screening for breast and prostate cancer and treatments for infertility and erectile dysfunction, but even there they establish a useful framework for discussion. Scarcity of resources need not be a leading conceptual consideration in discerning a basic minimum. More important are the societal elements that generate the cultural moral right to a basic minimum.
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