Commentary: Health care: A privilege or a right?

Since Hamilton battled Jefferson over the extent of federal power in our lives, we Americans have engaged in debate over the proper level of government — particularly federal government — mandates in the lives of her citizens.

When Social Security was passed into law, some saw it as the end of our republic and the slippery slope into socialism and a welfare state. Such erosion of traditional values: hard work, discipline and self-reliance are thrown on the altar of government handouts, and the subsequent decay in national pride and strength. Families should take care of their own, throughout the entire life cycle. Churches and private charity should provide food pantries and clothing for those in local need. In crass terms, those of means support those without by not being one of them. Therefore, health care is a choice; a privilege, and not a right.  Is it not a choice to study hard and get good grades, earn diplomas in demand to cash in for a good-paying job? (Then I get health care as a benefit!) Tax dollars should not be spent on health welfare for those who have made poor life decisions. Certainly we should care for those who suffer from random catastrophes or the faultless suffering from unforeseen circumstances, but never a blank check. A huge majority of Americans of all political ideals support children’s health care (CHIP) and most have come to accept Social Security and Medicare as needed assistance for the elderly. Even the hard-core conservatives seem resigned to Medicaid protection for the blind and disabled. But for other functioning adults: work more and spend less or go back and get a diploma or job skill to earn you a better paycheck.

For many of us raised by “the greatest generation,” one nurtured by the harsh realities of the Depression and World War II without governmental cushions, one can understand the frustrations exposed in current political rancor. So much talk about police power and denied access to the “American Dream,” but hardly a peep about raising children to be respectful, and honorable, and hard working and proud of this country who gives them so much. How about a dose of selfless patriotism? How about a dose of prayer before a prescription? How about a dose of a loving No! before giving in to every kid’s tantrum for their whim of the moment.

But this is only part of the story. Most of the 30 million uninsured work to the best of their God-given abilities, and others must learn to appreciate and respect their labor, as our faith commands.  Angels come to us dressed in unsavory cloth to test that very command. Health risk is random! Can one choose one’s DNA? One major tenet of the Affordable Care Act is free preventative care for every person to reduce risk and eliminate future treatments. Should that be earned by some grade point average? There are many things that those with wealth can afford that the poor cannot; but basic health care should not be one. For a person who works three part-time jobs to make $1,000 a month, we the people can afford to lend a helping hand in sharing health insurance costs. It is our compassion for the most vulnerable of us that defines us as a people, separates us from the thugs and terrorists, and secures our place as one nation under God.

Scott Terndrup is a Strasburg resident.