Pros and Cons of Universal Healthcare
Healthcare is a basic need of every human being. It should be considered a basic human right, in which the nation ensures that every person is covered by equal healthcare, regardless of age, gender, or income. Industrialized countries all over the world have been employing single payer healthcare for years, which is better than private health insurance. Even though it is seen as an effective healthcare system, the question is, why can’t Americans employ the single payer healthcare system like other industrialized countries?
Everyone deserves at least basic healthcare, irrespective of their origin, background, or financial status. Recently, there was a coalition made of over 500 leading health and development organizations from all corners of the world, urging governments to create reforms that will see that everyone, everywhere, will have access to quality healthcare without being forced into poverty. This is what has been the underlying principle of universal healthcare.
What is Universal Healthcare?
Universal Healthcare, which is also known as universal care, universal coverage, and universal health coverage, is a term that is used to address a healthcare system that provides health care and financial protection to every citizen of a specific country.
Universal healthcare is all about providing a specified healthcare package, which will be beneficial to every member of society, with the aim of providing financial risk protection, improved health outcomes, and improved access to health services. This type of health package does not provide coverage for everything, but rather it can be determined by three critical dimensions, which include:
- Who is covered;
- What services are covered;
- How much of the cost is covered.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), universal healthcare is a system in which every citizen can receive health services, without incurring financial hardship.
Universal healthcare was first started in Germany in 1883 and spread to other countries, especially the rich nations of Europe. America is not participating in this type of health system at the present time.
The objectives of a Universal healthcare system include:
- A strong, efficient, well-run health system;
- A system for financing health services;
- Access to essential medicines and technologies;
- A sufficient capacity of well-trained, motivated health workers.
Universal healthcare is sometimes referred to as free healthcare (as in Canada). In the real world, there is nothing like free healthcare; somebody is always paying for it.
Universal healthcare is the type of healthcare plan where every member of society can receive health coverage, irrespective of their social status, income, age, gender, race, pre-existing condition, or wealth. This means that as far as long as you are certified as a legal member of the region where universal healthcare is being practiced, then you are eligible for that care.
When we talk about universal healthcare, we are referring to healthcare that’s paid for or subsidized by the government, which is also called the single payer healthcare system. Since World War II, most countries in the world offer some form of universal healthcare to their citizens. So what are the pros and cons of this type of healthcare system? Should there be universal healthcare in the United States? There are many issues with America’s healthcare system, regardless of the fate of Obamacare, which is also known as the Affordable Care Act.
According to data from the National Coalition on Health Care, more than 45 million Americans do not have health insurance. The objective of universal healthcare is to provide those without insurance and other legal members of society with an opportunity to get the healthcare that they deserve without worrying about financial hardship.
Proponents of universal healthcare base their argument on the fact that no human, irrespective of his social status, should be allowed to go without adequate healthcare. They go further to state that the right to healthcare will help put a stop to medical bankruptcies, reduce overall healthcare spending, improve public health, and even help small businesses flourish. Meanwhile, those against it argue that it could lead to socialism and more government debt. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of universal healthcare.
What is a Single Payer Healthcare System?
A single payer healthcare system is a single public agency that takes on the responsibility of healthcare financing for all of the residents. This means that the health care of all residents is covered under one insurance company. Through single payer healthcare, people can get access to necessary services, such as prescription medication, doctors, long-term care, hospitals, vision care, and dental. Also, individuals are able to choose the place they receive care. The single payer healthcare system is believed to address a number of healthcare problems in the U.S. It is also known as universal health coverage, and will make great progress by providing healthcare equality, especially to underinsured and uninsured Americans. Potential wasteful spending would be better controlled by lower administrative costs and cost control. In addition, this healthcare system is believed to have more incentives in healthcare spending compared to public health measures.
Even though single payer healthcare’s provision of equal healthcare for the people sounds very promising, there are potential tradeoffs in shifting to it from the current system. Some points included in the criticism are restricted availability and lengthy wait times for certain elective surgeries or other healthcare options.
Universal healthcare can be a single-payer or two-tier payer system, and we will discuss what this means below:
This type of healthcare system covers every citizen under a single plan funded by the government, and provides comprehensive healthcare. In Europe and other parts of the world, most developed countries have one form of universal, publicly-financed healthcare.
The single payer healthcare system is also called “Medicare for all.” Under this type of plan, a single public or quasi-public agency will be tasked with the financing of healthcare, while the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. If this type of healthcare system is implemented in the United States, every resident would be covered for all medically necessary services, such as doctor’s visit, preventive treatment, hospital stays, mental health treatment, long-term care, dental care, reproductive health care, prescription drugs, vision care, and medical supply costs.
Should this be implemented, today’s inefficient system, which only the rich can afford, will be replaced by public savings, premiums will disappear, and over 95% of U.S. households would save money. Financial barriers, such as co-pays and deductibles, would no longer stop patients from receiving quality healthcare.
Pros of Universal Healthcare
Equal Access to Healthcare
- The main advantage of this type of healthcare is that it gives people that can’t afford healthcare the services they need. This system provides basic services for all citizens and it doesn’t discriminate against anyone. It helps those that aren’t employed or have other difficulties getting healthcare when they need it the most.
- This is perhaps the greatest advantage of universal healthcare: every member of society that has this type of health plan is able to access healthcare, no matter his social status. Since no single human life is greater than another, the poor can receive exactly the same type of healthcare that would only be afforded to the rich under normal circumstances. This type of healthcare does not discriminate against anyone. It puts all legal members of society on an equal pedestal.
Improve Public Health
- The entire population spreads around the cost of healthcare, so everyone can at least get the basic care that they need.
- This type of healthcare will help to improve the health of the general population, since every member of society has equal access to medical care. Hence, it will lead to a reduction in the amount of illness suffered by the general population, create healthier people, and increase productivity.
- Citizens can get free treatment for basic conditions without fear of not being able to afford them. This can help reduce the spread of infectious diseases and other common health problems that people may ignore if they can’t afford healthcare.
- It’s easier to have everyone under one system with universal healthcare. Doctors can concentrate on patients and not problems with insurance and other factors. With universal healthcare in place, doctors and other healthcare professionals can finally concentrate on treating the patient without worrying themselves with paperwork from the patients’ insurance companies and other necessary paperwork.
Stop Medical Bankruptcies
- Universal healthcare can put an end to medical bankruptcies. In 2007, about 62% of all United States bankruptcies were related to medical expenses, even for those with health insurance. With universal healthcare, medical bankruptcy will be a thing of the past, leading to a healthier and richer nation.
- Universal healthcare will encourage entrepreneurship, according to the projections made by Kauffman-RAND Institute for Entrepreneurship Public Policy. Most individuals avoid starting their own business due to fear of losing the health insurance that they are enjoying from their current employer. With universal healthcare in place, self-employment in the United States could increase by 2 to 3.5%.
- As of 2011, about 59.5% of Americans were enjoying health insurance through their employer in the private sector. The high cost that is associated with paying employee’s health insurance has put private U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage in the international marketplace. Hence, with universal healthcare, private businesses can free up the funds used for health insurance for investment in other areas of their business. This could reduce employer labor costs by more than 12%.
- Without a doubt, people work more when they live healthier lives, which allow them to contribute as much as they can to the nation’s economy. Universal healthcare will raise the standard of living of every individual in society, which will lead to more economic productivity.
- President Obama of the United States delivered his last State of the Union speech in December 2015, and mentioned that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world and that the state of the union is strong. If that’s the case, I don’t see any reason why the government can’t provide universal healthcare to its citizens. If some Asian countries like Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea can do it, why can’t the U.S.? Other than the efficiency of the government running the universal healthcare system, I think the other reason is that most Americans don’t think healthcare is supposed to be the responsibility of the government.
- Universal healthcare also draws its support from the United Nations Declaration made on Dec.10, 1948, which stated that “everyone has the right to a standard of living proper for the health and well-being of the individual and his family, which includes medical care.” Again, in 2005, the United States and the WHO members further threw their support to universal healthcare with the signing of the World Health Assembly resolution 58.33, which stated that every member of society should have access to healthcare services without facing financial hardship when seeking care.
Cons of Universal Healthcare
Long Wait Times
- This type of healthcare system often results in long wait times for patients, and not everyone will receive the type of care that they need. Since this type of system is run by the government, there can be a lot of red tape and bureaucracy that can result in poor care, especially if the country is already poor and doesn’t have a lot of revenue to spend on the care of its citizens.
Lead to a Socialist State
- The presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been criticized that his universal healthcare plan is a far-fetched dream. To make it happen, he admitted that he would have to increase taxes on every citizen, which could plunge the United States into a socialist state, where the government controls the distribution of goods and services. The United States is currently practicing a free market system, where market forces determine the availability and cost of healthcare services, not the federal government. The introduction of universal healthcare would lead to a great distortion in the economy. It could be the first step towards the government controlling other aspects of the economy.
- Universal healthcare will reduce the amount of money doctors can make, thereby reducing the attraction of the profession. This could create a shortage of doctors in the long run. Those with higher incomes may complain that their money is going to pay for the healthcare of other citizens when it should be going to pay for their own care.
Medical Abuse Leads to Rationing
- People may abuse the system and seek care for conditions which don’t require a visit to the hospital, and these people can tax the system and cause unnecessary burdens on the system.
- Adopting universal healthcare in the United States could lead to rationing of medical services, as seen in countries like New Zealand, Australia, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Taiwan. These countries that practice universal healthcare ration services through methods such as budgeting, controlled distribution, service restriction, and price setting.
There Is No Free Lunch
- Universal healthcare is not really free since the government will need to generate funds to support the program. Hence, it could lead to an increase in taxes. This is shown in the UK and other European countries where universal healthcare is being practiced, with taxes increasing year after year.
No Competition. No Innovation
- Universal healthcare eliminates the free market for healthcare, where prices may be lower.
- There is no incentive to create better medications or pursue better medical services.
- Universal healthcare will reduce the amount of money doctors can make, thereby reducing the attraction of the profession. This could create a shortage of doctors in the long run.
Takes Time to Get There
- Universal healthcare often has a lot of rules and regulations that people have to follow, and there is going to be a learning curve and probably trial and error, or even some technical difficulties, just like when Obamacare first launched.
Increases Government Debt
- This is probably the biggest argument against universal healthcare. Implementing a single payer healthcare system causes an increase in taxes, as the system needs to be paid for. The overall cost of the system can be draining on a country and cause large debts.
- Existing U.S. government healthcare programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, are already putting a huge strain on the public budget. Adding a universal healthcare program to these would amount to enormous growth in government spending and debt.
- Governments aren’t that great at running large systems, and asking the government to run healthcare could lead to a lot of problems. To run the healthcare system, there may need to be cuts made in other areas of the government that weaken those areas to compensate for the needs of the healthcare system.
There will always be a debate over the advantages and disadvantages of universal healthcare. But different countries have different situations, so if the pros outweigh the cons, going with universal healthcare would be the best approach.
What Countries have Free Healthcare?
Below, there is a list of countries with the cheapest medical care. These countries, unlike the United States, promote the universal healthcare system, which is being advocated by the WHO. The justification for implementing universal healthcare is to create convenient and sustainable healthcare services to all of the people in a specific country:
List of Countries with free Healthcare include
|Country||Start Date of Universal Healthcare|
|United Arab Emirates||1971|
Is Healthcare a Human Right?
When it comes to health, which was declared to be a human right by the WHO, individuals have the right to their own healthcare that is provided by the government by attempting to preserve the health facilities and health services that can be easily accessed by the people. According to the WHO, health is not just being free from disease, but also includes prosperous conditions of the physical, the soul, and the psychology, and those conditions allow a person to have an economically productive life. Healthy individuals do not suffer from physical diseases, and they can also interact with others and play a role in society.
From the statement above, we can conclude that healthcare is a human right that should be managed by the government and other authorities. For that reason, a lot of countries across the world provide universal coverage to give their people health assurance.
In its manifestation, all people will get health services without spending their own money for the services given. However, health assurance does not mean that people will get the full service for free because everything regarding health services is so expensive. It means that the government should manage and control the mechanism of payment, which will ensure that people do not pay any more when they get their health services from the government.
Implementation of Health Assurance
In the United States, all people had their own universal coverage from the government in 2010. According to the data, around 30 million U.S. citizens could not buy health assurance. By giving them universal coverage, it could be a great breakthrough for a country where capitalism and liberalism have spread.
Besides the countries mentioned above, there are other countries that have implemented universal coverage for their people. The government provides health services and care to the people because they are human rights, which should be fulfilled by the authorities. Implementing universal coverage can be so challenging and complex because there are many factors that need to be addressed. It can be implemented, but countries need a long time to make it run well.
Why Can’t Americans Have Universal Healthcare Like Industrialized Countries?
Many Americans have been wondering why almost every developed country in the world has a universal healthcare system, but the U.S. does not. Many reasons have been attributed to this.
Healthcare in the United States today is very expensive compared to other countries. In fact, a survey showed that, on average, America spends 50% more than the next-highest country. The same data showed that when you collate the average cost of healthcare in 34 European countries, the United States spends 200% more than all of them combined.
To introduce a single payer healthcare system in the United States from scratch would imply not just nationalizing the insurance industry, but also severely reducing payments to hospitals, doctors, and other integral parts of the healthcare industry. Moreover, many people working for politically powerful lobbies would be unemployed or bankrupted, and many others would be faced with whopping pay cuts. Free healthcare in the United States may seem like a desirable policy, but it would never be politically viable.
Going further, it is believed that the implementation of a single payer system in the United States would make the current healthcare system unattractive. Those involved in research would only have one paymaster, which would be the government. The lack of competition would cripple the desire of private individuals to invest in healthcare, leading to a reduction in the quality of the healthcare available in the United States.
To summarize, a single payer system in today’s United States is faced with intertwined political and policy problems that are insurmountable. For many years, America was faced with a lack of cost control and this can’t be undone overnight. At the moment, a single payer health system is not politically viable, and as the cost attached to it is excessive, there would be a reduction in the quality of healthcare and many people would face job losses, if it were implemented.
Obamacare Will Be Repealed
The current healthcare system in the U.S. is known as Obamacare. However, as a new president has been elected, Obamacare is going to be repealed. Why would President Trump not repair Obamacare, and instead choose to repeal it?
The highlight of the current healthcare policy is that there are too many people with severe health problems who use the Obamacare exchanges. However, those amounts are not matched by the amount of healthy people who are signing up. Actually, the main problem does not lie in Obamacare, but rather in the structure of the private market of health insurance. The system avoids sick people and instead attracts healthy people in order to create huge incentives. This system is only making the structural matter even more obvious.
Due to the problems in the structural system, President Trump has, therefore, claimed that he will repeal Obamacare instead of repair it. Even as he is going to repeal Obamacare, he suggested a new healthcare system, Trumpcare. Whatever the new system will be, the fact that a single payer health system has become too far-fetched is unavoidable.
Why Single Payer Healthcare is Impossible
Actually, America has already implemented single payer healthcare, which is called Medicare. Medicare is only opened to Americans who are over 65 years old. The single payer healthcare system is believed to address the most crucial and major deficiencies in the current healthcare system, which is the large amount of money that is spent on administration and billing. Hospitals and other medical clinics regularly employ more billing personnel than doctors. That is not the end of the current system’s flaws. Patients and their families spend a huge amount of time and effort arguing with bill collectors and insurance companies about what is covered, what is not, and what they owe. In addition, hospitals and drug companies spend an enormous amount of money on advertising their services and products.
Even though single payer healthcare is believed to have a great impact on healthcare reconstruction, why can’t America have that system? The main reason why America cannot adopt the better system is because some industries and certain institutions that have an interest in the current healthcare system are unwilling to change. Changing the healthcare system means that they will also experience changes in their profits, and they may not be as big as with the current system.
Besides the related industries and institutions, the Americans themselves are actually more skeptical of their national government than other industrialized nations. They do not trust the current government to handle and implement the policy. On the other hand, Americans who already have health coverage are satisfied with the existing system. If there are changes to the system, they are afraid that it will affect their health coverage, such as losing access to necessary care. Changing the existing healthcare system is not easy. Enacting new policy, such as single payer healthcare, can be expensive. The fact is that Americans are not ready for, and clearly opposed to, a tax increase. With all of those reasons, and perhaps there are more, enacting a single payer healthcare system seems like a far-fetched dream.
Why the Solution is Single Payer Healthcare
Even though shifting from the existing healthcare system to a single payer healthcare system is not easy, it is the only long-term solution available for providing equal healthcare to every person, regardless of age, income, or gender. A single payer healthcare system that covers all Americans will result in a huge reduction in administrative expenses. The money that they have saved can be allocated to disease prevention and healthcare, instead of debt collection and paper pushing. Many Americans get stuck at their current jobs due to the great health insurance provided. Single payer healthcare allows people to be free and more productive, without worrying about health insurance.
Americans are, in fact, aware that the existing healthcare system is not working properly. But it may take a long time for them to understand that the problems lie fundamentally in the system, since the U.S. remains the only industrialized country on the planet where citizens do not have a guarantee of equal healthcare.