Television doctor and would-be senator Mehmet Oz told an audience in 2013 that people don’t have a “right to health,” in a newly resurfaced video. He was providing the keynote speech to the National Governors Association winter meeting as the Affordable Care Act was in the early stages of implementation. His top concern was the “balance between personal and governmental responsibility” in health care, and even then, it seems Oz was making political calculations based on what he thought his audience wanted.
He could stand by his professional oath as a physician, or give the Republicans in the crowd—then riding the wave of anti-Obamacare fervor—what they wanted to hear: that government shouldn’t be in the position of making sure people can be healthy. Instead, it was about personal responsibility, “warning against obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking,” and implying that those people don’t necessarily deserve good health care.
Oz would be a disaster for everyone in the Senate. Help John Fetterman keep that from happening and help flip Pennsylvania from red to blue with your $3.
Instead of having a “right to health,” Oz said, people in the U.S. “have a right to access, to get that health,” suggesting that he believes there are real limits to the health care that people—in this case, the uninsured—deserve.
That access he envisions sounds more like punishment, “a way of crawling back out of the abyss, of darkness, of fear over not having the health they need, and give them an opportunity.” Again, embracing the conservative idea that people who are sick deserve to be and have to crawl their way out of bad health. He didn’t absolve the governors and other policy-makers from responsibility entirely.
Oz suggested that governors could use local hospitals, which would pay for it, to give the uninsured “15-minute physicals” and that it could be done “in a festival-like setting” where they get “screening.” What happens after that screening if a serious medical condition is diagnosed, Oz doesn’t say.
By the way, those “festival-like” health care screenings have been the sole purpose of Remote Area Medical (RAM) free pop-clinics for decades. The nonprofit, founded by Stan Brock in 1985 to provide health care are in developing countries, has been working in the U.S. since 1992, providing care in underserved areas from Los Angeles to Appalachia. They show the reality of Oz’s “festival-like” vision—dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people showing up in the middle of the night to get in line for the chance to be seen by a health care provider the next day. That had already been a reality for more than a decade when Oz gave that speech.
Oz, by the way, had been an early booster of the ACA, and had argued for the most maligned element of the plan, the individual mandate to hold insurance. Now that he’s a Trumpy Republican running for the Senate, he “does not support a big government takeover of the health insurance industry” and “would not have voted for Obamacare.” At least that’s what a campaign spokesperson told CNN in March, before the primary.
He’s always been messed up on whether people really deserve care, though, that CNN story shows. In 2007, he told CNN, “There have been times when I have been tempted to break my Hippocratic oath, to put my patient first, because although I could save their life, they didn’t have the ability to reimburse whoever had to pay for it.” It’s convoluted, but apparently he meant that he had been tempted in his practice to not provide life-saving care to someone who couldn’t pay for it, because “what happens then is that the system goes bankrupt. You can’t afford those services anymore.”
That Hippocratic oath seems to be a slippery thing for Oz, what with his conviction that people don’t have a right to health. The guy is a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman who has a questionable place in practicing medicine and none whatsoever in deciding health care policy in the Senate.
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