Healthcare and Personal Responsibility

Negotiating the Relationship Between Healthcare and Personal Responsibility in America 

The laws of supply and demand present us with a painful truth when it comes to certain resources: there aren’t always enough to go around. When we treat healthcare as a commodity instead of an inalienable human right, we must subject it to the same principle. In countries where a combination of taxes and other public sources of revenue guarantee universal care for all residents, this problem is often less prevalent. However, the United States faces political obstacles that make the possibility of such a system remote at best, states Laverty. As such, it is important to review the resources we do have and consider the most efficient ways to spend them so that people who need care most can access it.


At a certain point, it may be necessary to examine the paradox that exists between certain American freedoms and greater social responsibilities. Some argue that the desire for freedom from higher medical premiums is irreconcilable with the desire for comprehensive health coverage, but it may be interesting to look at the inverse of such an argument. Could it be that the desire for comprehensive and affordable care is irreconcilable with the freedom to engage in high-risk or self-destructive behaviors? Perhaps it is the desire for social liberty instead of economic liberty that makes providing accessible healthcare difficult.

Laverty says having vices brings up questions

Laverty on the healthcare system
Laverty on the healthcare system

Here is an example: if a person chain-smokes cigarettes, subsists on an exclusive diet of Big Macs, and refuses exercise, are they not putting themselves at a higher risk of serious health problems? Moreover, since those problems are likely to result from lifestyle choices made of their own volition, should the person in question not be responsible for the resultant costs? Under the current system, such a person might end up using more resources than their healthcare premiums cover. The difference might have to be made up by other members of society, even if they do not engage in such irresponsible behavior. Then again, what would be more oppressive: requiring some members of society to pay for the mistakes of others, or requiring all members to make lifestyle choices deemed “responsible” by the system? It is an interesting question.


Making changes to our nation’s healthcare system is always going to be a controversial subject, but it is worth considering the extent to which personal responsibility and freedom should factor into the way we pay for it. Until we can move towards a system that provides greater benefits for all Americans, we will have to grapple with such questions.

Read more on the personal responsibility of healthcare from Laverty.


written by Charles Laverty


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