Did you know that there are over 45 million people in the United States who do not have health care? Learn more about universal health care, arguments that support universal health care, and arguments against it.
Key Terms and Definitions
Universal health care, also known as universal health coverage, is a specific type of health care where everyone is provided coverage regardless of their income, race, age, pre-existing conditions, gender, or wealth. In other words, as long as you are a legal resident of the region that is being covered, (i.e., the United States), you are eligible for universal health care.
The purpose of universal health care is to provide all citizens with an opportunity to obtain the health care that they may need without having to worry about financial hardship. Currently, the costs associated with privatized health care are really expensive. Private companies are able to set their own costs for insurance premiums, medical tests, and other services in order to make a profit.
A universal health care system would be run by the government. The assumption here is that the government would not be interested in making profits; however, the government would be interested in promoting the best interests of its citizens. Therefore, a universal health care system would likely result in decreased costs for medical care and improved monitoring for health care costs, which would result in more affordable health care.
All forms of universal health care require some type of involvement from the government. For example, there can be government mandates or legislation that affects universal health care. The laws are what determine to whom the universal health care should be provided, the type of coverage that is included, and the type of care that is provided.
Universal health care can be provided in several different ways, including:
- A single-payer system, or setting up universal health care so that a single organization (most likely the government) would be responsible for collecting health care fees and health care payouts.
- Using the private sector in order to subsidize health care coverage.
- Handing out vouchers or giving people refundable tax credits so that they are able to purchase health care in the private sector.
- Issuing a mandate that requires all people to have some form of health coverage.
It is important to note that universal health care means that all people will be allowed medical treatment. It does not mean that everyone will receive medical treatment. Some individuals may decide not to receive any treatment, or they may not know that treatment is available.
Universal Healthcare - Pros
Those who support universal health care cite the following reasons:
- Improved health of the population, since all people will have access to health services. This will result in a decrease in illness in the general population and increased productivity.
- Decrease in bankruptcy or poverty due to medical costs.
- All people will have equal access to health care, which promotes equality and fairness.
- Universal health coverage may help small businesses become more profitable and improve their growth. In a nation of privatized health coverage where insurance premiums are high, most small businesses cannot afford to provide their employees with health insurance. This makes it difficult to attract and keep quality employees, since they can go get health care with larger companies. Health care insurance premiums are also more expensive for small businesses than larger ones since they do not have enough employees to qualify for discounted rates. Universal health care will not only result in cheaper insurance premiums for small business, but also provide small businesses with tax credits they can use to cover their employees' health insurance. This will increase the ability of small businesses to attract quality employees and save them money, thereby increasing profits, productivity, and stimulating growth.
- Currently, hospitals have to treat you whether or not you can afford to pay them back. Universal health care can increase the profitability of hospitals by making sure that everyone has coverage, so the hospital does not have to worry about eating up the costs of the ones who cannot pay.
- Administrative health care costs will be decreased in a single payer system, since all of the same rules apply to each person's coverage. All of the billing, health insurance payouts, and collection of health insurance fees will be done by one single company.
- Doctors and other health care professionals can focus on treating the patient instead of worrying about insurance procedures, access paperwork, and malpractice liability.
- People would be encouraged to seek preventative care and get medical help early on when treatment is not as aggressive. Currently, many people skip out on preventative care to save money.
- People who have pre-existing conditions will be allowed to seek coverage under universal health care.
Universal Healthcare - Cons
Those who do not support universal health care cite the following reasons:
- Universal health care will cause a rise in taxes.
- It will be difficult to calculate just how much people should pay and how much medical providers should be reimbursed for medical services under universal health care.
- Businesses charge higher prices for their services to fund research that results in better treatments and methods. Universal health care will eliminate competition and affect how much businesses can charge for medical services, which can decrease innovation.
- It may limit people's choices of doctors and treatment options.
- People may only be allowed to choose certain types of coverage.
- The initial cost of implementing a universal health care plan may be expensive.
- Universal health care may be financially difficult for some small business owners and those who are self-employed, since they would have to help pay for the health care.
- Generating funds for universal health care may lead to spending cuts in other areas of the government, including education and defense.
- Individuals who are healthy will have to pay for individuals who are not as healthy.
- Universal health care may result in a loss of jobs in the insurance industry and business closures.
- A part of the universal health care plan is the creation of a new electronic, national patient records system that can be accessed by any medical provider in the United States. This not only creates security concerns but will also provide the government with access to any citizen's medical information. The cost of implementing such a system can be expensive.
- Universal health care could potentially expose the government to legal liability, which means that malpractice insurance rates and lawsuit costs could increase significantly.
- The government may pass additional taxes or restrictions on smoking, fast food, drinking, etc. that would result in a decrease in personal freedom.
- Patient confidentiality is a major concern, since the government would likely be responsible for maintaining centralized health information.
Universal health care is a health care system in which all residents of a specified region are provided health care coverage. There are several benefits to universal health care, including improved health of the general population. There are also several drawbacks to universal health care, including a likely increase in taxes. Regardless if you are for or against universal health care, the rising cost of health care is a growing concern in the United States that everyone must face.
Set a goal upon finishing the lesson to:
- Define universal health care
- Explain its purpose
- Specify the different ways in which it can be provided
- Indicate the pros and cons of universal health care