9 months ago

Is health care a right?

The debate over government’s role in health care and “Medicare for All” frequently revolves around whether health care is a human right. We establish government to secure our rights, so government should not deny Americans’ right to health care.

Health care is one of several economic rights, like rights to food, shelter and education. Arguments concerning health care generally apply to other economic rights.

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights do not recognize economic rights, which run against our founders’ political philosophy. The American Revolution was fought to secure “negative” rights, like life, liberty and property. Negative rights can be enjoyed by preventing actions to violate them, like assault or theft. If you observe the non-initiation of force rule, you are unlikely to violate negative rights.

Negative rights though do not ensure that people have the things needed to achieve happiness. A person unable to eat, obtain an education, or receive medical care will not have a high-quality life. The world would be better if everyone enjoyed a minimal standard of living. Does this imply that people have economic rights? The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms this.

A problem arises with economic rights. Health care must be produced, so some people must be obligated to provide this. An unchosen obligation undermines the voluntary basis of social interaction. To avoid forcing doctors to treat patients, government must pay
the bills.

Opponents of economic rights see these obligations as problematic. The U.N. Declaration says that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The obligation of some to provide health care for others seems to produce unequal rights.

Another problem concerns the level of care people are entitled to. Surely emergency medical care and treatments for life-threatening diseases should be covered, though probably not fertility treatments. Yet parenthood is a huge component of happiness. Plastic surgery seems excessive, but what about persons disfigured by accidents?

Are people obligated to live to minimize the burden they impose on taxpayers? Should people face dietary restrictions and exercise requirements? Should we ban dangerous recreational activities like skiing and softball? Such restrictions compromise the pursuit of happiness.

We need not make health care a right to provide coverage. Insurance already helps with this. Few Americans could afford $1 million in medical care themselves, but insurance can cover this, and through voluntary contracts and not taxes. Americans today are not denied emergency medical care due to an inability to pay.

Americans’ willingness to help those in need makes charity an alternative in providing medical care. Voluntary assistance provided a safety net before the modern welfare state, as documented by University of Alabama historian David Beito. In addition to numerous charities, today individuals can make appeals on GoFundMe.

I will leave the question of whether voluntary assistance could provide health care for another time. Instead, let’s consider two troublesome aspects of voluntary assistance.

Even with a diverse array of charitable assistance, people might fail to meet eligibility criteria. If churches provided charity medicine, for instance, low-income Americans who were not religious could go uncovered. Of course, people slip through the cracks of our government safety net: not everyone eligible for Medicaid enrolls. The gaps appear to be a fixable flaw of a government safety net but a feature of charity.

Proponents of government assistance feel that asking for charity is demeaning. I agree that many people find asking others for help unpleasant. A right to health care keeps people from having to beg for help.

Health care is a component of modern prosperity, which must be continually created. A poor society, like America at the time of our founding, can enforce negative rights to life and property. We can better ensure that every American has health care and other economic necessities through public policies designed to allow prosperity than by enshrining economic rights.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

51 mins ago

UAB team investigates suicide, opioid prescription changes

In a new study, University of Alabama at Birmingham investigators will recruit family members of people who have died by suicide after a change in prescribed pain medications and survey their experiences.

In the United States, suicide rates rose 33 percent from 1999 to 2017, prompting actions by government and nongovernmental agencies, including a new suicide prevention hotline. There is no single explanation for that rise in suicides. Each individual death, experts note, involves a combination of risk factors that can include mental illness, pain, problems accessing care and changes in society at large.

However, starting in 2016, UAB’s Stefan Kertesz, M.D., a professor of medicine, began to see a concerning pattern: Some suicide attempts took place after doctors attempted to reduce prescription of pain medication, including opioids.


The study, titled Clinical contexts of SuicIde following OPIOID transitionS (CSI:OPIOIDS), will reach out to family members of someone who died by suicide and assess whether they would be willing to collaborate in future research.

Kertesz was not the only person who noticed this new disturbing trend.

Meredith Lawrence was with her husband, Jay Lawrence, when he died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound in March 2017, in Tennessee. At that time, he had severe pain and early-onset dementia. Writing in 2017, Meredith described Jay’s doctors’ plan to reduce prescription opioids as the precipitating factor that contributed to his decision to take his own life. When her story made national news, more than 5,000 comments were posted online. By 2019, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that rapidly reducing prescription opioids might cause suicide in some people.

But, Kertesz cautions that suicide is not likely to reflect just one factor, such as how quickly a prescription is changed.

“These events are tragic. Several federal agencies have acknowledged a link between suicide and changes in opioid prescriptions, but no really one understands what is happening,” Kertesz said. “We don’t know why some people wind up dead and others don’t, and that’s why research is needed.”

Co-investigator Allyson Varley, Ph.D., with the UAB Center for Addiction and Pain Prevention and Intervention, added that the medical community and society in general can prevent these terrible losses only by understanding the underlying factors of what took place.

“The problem is there is no official agency attempting to capture these events, and that means they are incredibly hard to study,” Varley said.

Lawrence supports their effort.

“I lost my husband in 2017 by suicide after his medications were taken away,” Lawrence said. “At that point, I wrote about our experience for the public, and it drew attention nationally. To see Dr. Kertesz and his colleagues take this seriously matters to me because nobody should lose a loved one over something treatable.”

Working in collaboration with patients, family members and experts from around the country, Kertesz and Varley have designed a national survey to seek family members who have lost someone to suicide after a change in pain medication. Their survey, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes online or by telephone, will assess how the individual reporting on the death is related to the person who died, and what they think happened. Individuals can participate in the survey online, or by calling staff at the Recruitment and Retention Shared Facility in the Division of Preventive Medicine at UAB.

The study is approved by the Institutional Review Board at UAB.

Both Kertesz and Varley are affiliated with UAB’s Department of Medicine, UAB’s Center for Addiction and Pain Prevention and Intervention, and the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To participate in this study, click here.

(Courtesy of UAB)

2 hours ago

This weekend’s college football TV schedule

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)


Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @hayden_crigler.

3 hours ago

Bama gunning for greatest season ever; #NeverDabo trends again; Malzahn within reach of a milestone, maybe

Nick Saban’s absence from the sidelines of the Iron Bowl may only add to the legend of what is unfolding as the best season ever played by a college football team.

Similar banter occurred last year in the midst of LSU’s run to the national title. It seemed legitimate to at least consider it given the production on the offensive side of the ball. Yet, one cannot help but think much of the LSU discussion happened because the bar was set so low going into the 2019 season. The shock and surprise that Ed Orgeron and a previously average transfer quarterback could put it all together made the feat seem that much bigger.

There has been no element of surprise in Tuscaloosa, which makes for a more solid case.


Saban, through various coordinators, has recently installed some of the most explosive offenses in the country year after year. And the old defensive wizard has fielded in 2020 a unit with elite athleticism and speed.

After six games last year, LSU’s offense was averaging 536 total yards per game. In the same amount of games this season, Alabama’s offense is racking up 555 yards per game.

Through six games, Mac Jones has a passing efficiency rating of 210.3. Joe Burrow’s rating was 204.5 at the same point last season. Burrow was leading the nation in completion percentage after six games, in what would end up being a Heisman Trophy-winning season, at 78.8%. Jones is completing 78.5% of his passes.

With an offense churning out those kind of historic numbers, not much is required of the other side of the ball.

Excluding its performance against Ole Miss, which has proven to be an aberration, the Tide is a top 25 defense with a ton of disruptive potential on the back end. This is a nearly identical spot at which LSU sat last year.

Alabama is 7-0 with everything, including history, out in front.


For a minute this week, all fanbases united against Dabo Swinney.

Dabo had the audacity to stand up for his team and his program after his Clemson Tigers hauled all the way to Tallahassee only to have their game against the hometown Seminoles canceled.

Florida State did not feel comfortable with Clemson’s health protocols. Dabo, in turn, expressed his disappointment with the entire situation.

No doubt Dabo has some problems on the field that would seem to be more pressing, including a secondary devoid of athleticism and an offensive line which is downright bad. Clemson’s roster pales in comparison to Alabama’s.

Still, Dabo committed a notable criminal act this week which brought him the flack.

His crime was that he spoke like a football coach.

Dabo did not get the memo that you may only speak about college football in 2020 if your remarks include an irrational fear of the virus.

He did what football coaches have done for as long as the ball has been snapped, he spoke to his team through the media.

After taking a tough loss against Notre Dame and spending two weeks preparing to get back on its feet, Dabo’s Tigers got the rug pulled out from under them less than two hours before kickoff. In seeking to get his players’ minds right and motivated for another week of practice, Dabo teed off on FSU’s decision to cancel the game and vigorously defended his program’s commitment to safety. Not to mention that in the days leading up to the initial college football rankings, he used the opportunity to create a diversion of focus.

Tide fans jumped in quickly to sit in reserved #NeverDabo seats.

Reminded of the fact that they have never liked Dabo, Auburn fans saw this week’s events as a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Then there was the national media who has never liked Dabo and still thinks the entire season should have been canceled.

Here is an idea, maybe it is possible to coach hard, motivate your players, stand up for your team and be diligent in how you operate your program.

None of those things are mutually exclusive.

Let’s get to a special Iron Bowl edition of all underdog picks.


UCF (-25) at South Florida: Someone famous once said, “There’s an old saying…fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, can’t get fooled again.” Well, he would not like what is about to happen here. We have taken South Florida as a big underdog at home once before, and it did not end well for us or the Bulls. UCF is coming off an emotional fourth quarter loss to No. 7 Cincinnati. First-year head coach Jeff Scott is building a foundation in Tampa. It continues today. Can’t get fooled again.

The pick: UCF 40, South Florida 20

No. 2 Notre Dame (-5.5) at No. 19 North Carolina: Believe it or not, North Carolina has been a bit of a disappointment this season. It will be interesting to see just how many more years Mack Brown is willing to commit to his second trip through Chapel Hill. If the over/under is 2 more seasons, we will take the under. Going back even further than his brother’s time at UAB, Brown has always been a big game coach. Bryan Kelly and the Irish will be happy to get out alive.

The pick: Notre Dame 43, North Carolina 40

No. 13 Iowa State at No. 17 Texas (-1): Every once in a while college football fans are forced to stop and think about the fact that Tom Herman coaches at Texas and Matt Campbell is the head man at Iowa State. It should be the other way around. While Iowa State is incredibly well-coached, Texas probably has the superior 1-22. Probably.

The pick: Iowa State 27, Texas 23

No. 15. Oregon (-14) at Oregon State: Do enough people in the state of Oregon really care about college football to warrant calling this rivalry “The Civil War”? Doubtful. One of the more predictable aspects of this season is that Oregon misses Justin Herbert.

The pick: Oregon 26, Oregon State 24


Pittsburgh at No. 3 Clemson (-25): Even Dabo cannot think Clemson is the third-best team in the country. Instead of complaining about Dabo’s FSU rant, maybe the warriors in the national sports media should be asking for a playoff committee competency hearing. The Panthers have oddly been a tough out for Clemson in Death Valley.

The pick: Clemson 30, Pittsburgh 20

No. 20 Coastal Carolina (-17) at Texas State: We have had our eye on this game for more than a few minutes. Coastal Carolina comes off of a big win against rival Appalachian State and now must make the cross country trek to San Marcos, which is not the easiest outpost to reach. Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator, and current Texas State head coach, Jake Spivatal is seeing his Bobcats struggle through a tragic week, though. Defensive back Khambrail Winters was fatally shot on Tuesday during a drug deal gone bad. Not an easy situation for Spivatal.

The pick: Coastal Carolina 33, Texas State 29


No. 22 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (-24.5): An Auburn win would mean that head coach Gus Malzahn takes sole possession of the winningest record against Nick Saban during his time at Alabama. Or would he? Malzahn’s overall record lends to the belief that he is the best coach to ever walk the turf at Jordan-Hare. The air would get a lot thinner if Malzahn were to pick up his fourth victory over Saban. No one else has accomplished that. But does a win Saturday count against Saban? The Tide head coach’s COVID-induced absence on the sideline could call that into question. Malzahn and his teams have never been intimidated by Alabama. There is no reason to think any different this weekend.

The pick: Alabama 44, Auburn 32

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

20 hours ago

State Sen. Elliott: ‘I am not interested in discussing’ the I-10 Mobile Bay proposal until we have a new governor, ALDOT director

According to a report last week, efforts were underway for the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to put a new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge proposal back on its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) after being removed in 2019 to prevent the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) from proceeding with a controversial toll bridge proposal.

Under ALDOT’s public-private partnership plan, backed by Gov. Kay Ivey, travelers across the bridge that would have connected Mobile and Baldwin Counties would have paid $6 each way.

State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne), whose district is adjacent to the proposed project’s site, expressed his shock the proposal was back on the table during an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile.” He also signaled his distrust of Ivey and ALDOT Director John Cooper for the way they had proceeded in the past.


“[I] was a little bit taken aback that was even being brought up again — not because the project is not needed, that is for sure,” he said, “not because we don’t need to figure out a way to move people and commerce back and forth and back and forth across the region a whole lot easier and more efficiently. But just because of the manner in which this was handled by the governor and her administration. But I just cannot believe it is even being seriously discussed again.”

Elliott argued the Eastern Shore MPO’s decision to take it out of the TIP was the “last line of defense” for residents and elected officials that opposed the project. He said given that the Ivey administration was willing to proceed despite residents’ wishes, he was not interested in discussing the project until there was a new governor and ALDOT director.

“[T]o be clear — what has happened, the news is this will be going back on the Eastern Shore MPO’s visionary list,” Elliott said. “That puts it back into the MPO’s plan for consideration once a planning source has been identified. And their caveat is the funding source has not yet been identified. Of course, that is where we got hung up last time. But I’m going to tell you — the bigger issue here is not the funding source. It is not the need of the bridge. It is that the MPO, the Eastern Shore MPO specifically, was the last line of defense to keep this from happening. As the former chairman of the MPO, I know that all too well. That was how it got stopped. This governor and this ALDOT director were more than happy to proceed with a funding scheme and mechanism that was completely unfair for residents of coastal Alabama, that was objected to by every elected official I know of. And yet, they were perfectly willing to proceed with it.”

“So, I would say the issue with this project is not necessarily the need for it or even the funding mechanism for it — although that is obviously a problem if it involves a toll,” he continued. “But rather — it is an issue of trust with this administration, with this ALDOT director. That, if you will forgive the pun, that bridge is burned. It has not been rebuilt, and I doubt that it will be.”

“I am not interested in discussing this bridge or a Bayway proposal at all until we have a new governor and a new ALDOT director,” Elliott added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

21 hours ago

NFIB Alabama: Small Business Saturday especially important this year

It’s especially important this year for people to shop small on Small Business Saturday, says National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash.

A release outlined that Alabamians can do so in person, online or over the phone.

Small Business Saturday, as it is annually, is this coming Saturday, the one immediately following Thanksgiving. However, this year’s Small Business Saturday may be the most important one ever, as hardworking small business owners and employees continue to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The coronavirus is taking a toll on Alabama’s small businesses,” Elebash stated. “Governor Ivey has gradually eased many of the restrictions put in place to keep customers and employees safe, but small business owners say it may be months, perhaps years, before the local economy fully recovers from the pandemic.”


“Small business is the backbone of our economy, making up 99.4 percent of all employers in the state. And while it makes headlines whenever a big corporation adds a few hundred jobs here or there, small businesses are responsible for a net increase of 23,841 jobs statewide in 2019,” she continued.

Small Business Saturday 2020 comes as a coalition led by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) — and including NFIB Alabama — continues to undertake the Keep Alabama Open campaign.

“Our small businesses were doing well at the beginning of the year,” Elebash added. “Since spring, however, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours greatly reduced, while employers have had to learn new safety procedures and invest in additional equipment from hand sanitizer stations and face masks to plastic shields at the checkout. Some small businesses intended to close temporarily and wound up closing for good.”

“That’s why we need to make a point of supporting local shops and restaurants, not just on Small Business Saturday but throughout the holiday shopping season,” she explained. “If you can’t visit them in person, then order online or place your order by phone and take advantage of local delivery or curbside pickup. Or, buy gift cards that you can redeem once the crisis is over.”

“Alabama’s economy is built on its small businesses,” Elebash concluded. “Without our support, we could lose them, and that would be bad for everyone.”

RELATED: Why Small Business Saturday really matters in 2020

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn