Buchanan and the Argument For Decent Minimum Health Care

In “The Right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care,” Allen E. Buchanan argues that the idea of a right to a “decent minimum of health care” is invalid support for the creation of a mandatory decent minimum policy by a society. The main flaw Buchanan points to in this concept is the lack of a concrete theory of justice to support it. Buchanan argues that a more effective method for justifying the creation of a mandatory coercively backed decent minimum policy would be to make multiple arguments that focus on the topics of special rights, the prevention of harm, and enforced beneficence. 

Buchanan reasons that the concept of a right to a decent minimum of healthcare is invalid because there is no clear theory of justice that exists to support the concept. I disagree with this argument. In multiple societies, including the United States, concepts of basic human rights function without being attached to specific theories of justice. For example, American citizens vary and have varied on which theory of justice they adhere to or if they adhere to one at all. Nevertheless, the majority of Americans accept rights such as freedom of speech or religion. These rights are used commonly in decision making and policy creation in the US, and are even an integral part of America’s Constitution despite there being no specific theory of justice that is universally pointed to as justification for these ideas. I would argue this is because these concepts apply more to a sense of common human beneficence than they do to theories of justice. Many support an argument if they believe that it is beneficent before they attempt to apply the lens of a specific theory of justice. 

I can understand reasoning for why relying on a right to decent minimum health care alone might not be strong enough to justify a decent minimum health care policy. However, I feel as though the concept of a right to minimum healthcare may still be seen as a valid argument among the other’s that Buchanan offers for the creation of coercively backed minimum healthcare. I believe that this concept of an inherent right can work in tangent to Buchanan’s arguments. Buchan’s arguments can be combined with the idea of an inherent right in order to strengthen the overall justification for a mandatory coercively backed decent minimum policy. 

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