Local members of Congress respond to ‘health care right’ question

To prepare for a column I wrote this week, I asked our local members of the U.S. House of Representatives to respond to the question, “Do Americans have a right to heath care?” They each replied shortly after the health care legislation passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama several weeks ago. Here is how each of them answered:

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-13th District, of Hinsdale, who voted against the health care bill —

“Health care is not a Constitutional right. But as a policymaker, I am committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health care options.”

* * *

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-14th District, of Geneva, who voted for the health care bill —

“Yes.”

* * *

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd District, of Western Springs, who voted against the health care bill —

“The question of whether Americans have a ‘right to health care’ is open to many interpretations. Usually when we discuss whether an individual has a ‘right’ to something we are asking whether or not there is or should be any law that prevents that person from exercising that right. Most rights, such as free speech, do not have a cost. But when speaking of health care in this context, it is important to keep in mind what is otherwise obvious: that health care not only has a cost, but that its cost is rising rapidly. The debate over the recent health care bill was not about whether there is a ‘right to health care,’ but rather how much health care should be provided by the government for certain individuals. Currently, we have Medicaid for low-income individuals. In addition, hospital emergency rooms are largely required by law to treat people with emergency medical conditions regardless of their ability to pay, and the government provides special funding to hospitals that treat significant populations of low-income patients through Disproportionate Share Hospital payments.

“I believe we can all agree that in seeking to expand access to affordable health care, we must take care to act in a fiscally responsible manner, since any government support must come from raising taxes or cutting payments in other programs. The bill that just passed both raises taxes and takes money from Medicare and Social Security in order to provide new health care subsidies for some individuals. The most important action to take to help every American access affordable health care, as well as to lower government spending, is to reduce the skyrocketing cost of health care. Unfortunately, the bill just passed does little to control skyrocketing costs. Left to grow unchecked, health care costs will become a crushing financial burden on our country, and crowd out other vital services and expenditures that protect us from harm, enhance our quality of life, and may in fact reduce our need for medical treatment.”

* * *

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-6th District, of Wheaton, who voted against the health care bill —

“I believe that access to health care is a right for all Americans, and the best way to ensure the availability of high-quality care is to enact meaningful reforms to bring down the skyrocketing cost of health services.”

* * *

I appreciate the time all of them offered to address my question.

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