Health Freedom

Within health and medical systems that some see as heavily influenced by big government or pharmaceutical money, there are multiple concerns on either side of the political aisle around health freedom. Many on both sides have called for more protection for “health freedom” — the space to self-determine and choose for oneself one’s course of treatment and approach to health overall. This term, however, means different things to people on the left and right.

Some, especially on the left side of the political spectrum, are concerned primarily about access, and worry that available treatment options and possibilities have been constrained in significant and severe ways, often for marginalized groups. Many want employers to be required to provide insurance packages that cover contraceptives for employees, and want healthcare providers to unquestioningly accept and treat transgender patients. Some also advocate for decriminalizing some or all drugs (in 2020, Oregon became the first state to do so), or for creating safe injection sites for drug users.

Those on the right side of the spectrum are similarly worried about the freedom to make healthcare choices, but from a different angle. They worry that big government may move to disrupt previous private health insurance arrangements in favor of a one-size-fits-all Medicare for All or other government-run health system. They also raise concerns about being coerced into starting particular treatments (such as pharmaceuticals for a mental health condition), feeling forced to give their children certain treatments, or feeling forced to reduce their intake of healthy food (such as via government proposals to reduce red meat consumption).

People on both the left and right are also concerned about the potential for federal state or local governments, or even private businesses, to issue vaccine mandates; a lawmaker from Manhattan introduced a bill in December 2020 that would have established a law requiring state residents to receive a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine.

Others see both the concern over freedom and undue pharmaceutical influence to be overwrought. In their view, current research approaches, scientific consensus on certain treatment outcomes, and watchdog agencies like the FDA can be trusted to issue directives and protect society.

Contributors: 

Henry Brechter, Julie Mastrine, Joseph Ratliff

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