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Health insurance, care are inventions not rights

August 26, 2009 - Lee Smith
The debate over national health care policy has been raging for months now, and I've wanted to write something that didn't touch on all the main points already out there. I've been thinking about a historical perspective, which I sum up as: Lewis and Clark didn't have health insurance.

In other words, health insurance is an invention. As is, of course, modern medical care. Our pioneer forefathers had no health coverage, and the quality of their treatments was not to be envied. Conditions, bacteria and diseases we consider minor these days killed people way back when. If you got an infection or a wound in a limb, they lopped it off.

How does this matter? Well, just because someone invented something doesn't entitle any of us to its use. If someone came to where you work and demanded that you provide them service for free, you'd laugh. And what if the invention had never been introduced? You can't demand what doesn't exist.

It wasn't until the early 20th century that disability insurance policies came about, and it took until mid-century for these to evolve into modern health insurance programs. Before these developments, people paid out of pocket for health care.

Today, our "civilized" society seems to consider any modern miracle as a birthright. It's possible to get the government to provide you with "free" services, but such a system has consequences, stagnating medical developments among them. Our forefathers, at least, could look forward to these.


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