Universal Health Care

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  • Topic: Health insurance, Health care, Universal health care
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Universal Health Care
Amy Hall
Southern New Hampshire University
Dr. Thirtle

Universal health care coverage is a highly controversial issue all over the world, but of special interest in the United States. The U.S. is considered one of the few truly industrialized nations in the world which does not provide some form of comprehensive health care coverage for its citizens. This paper will examine some of the arguments and data provided both for and against a universal health care (also referenced as UHC) plan.

Universal Health Care
The U.S. has been in turmoil over the topic of Universal Health Care for some time now. The idea sounds simple enough; government provides coverage for everyone, rich or poor and everyone gets the services they require. However, many citizens may think twice about such a program when they look into the details of how it is funded and delivered to the public.

Before getting in too deep in this subject it is important to understand the term Universal Health Care (UHC). Universal health care refers to government mandated programs intended to ensure that all citizens, and sometimes permanent residents, of a governmental region have access to most types of health care. Patients may pay for some portion of their care directly, but most care is subsidized by taxpayers and/or by compulsory insurance (Search 2010). UHC is a very broad term which could mean anything from government financing (as in Medicare / Medicaid for all) to use of tax law to bring everyone into the private health-insurance system (as recently enacted in Massachusetts under Republican Governor Mitt Romney).

Public under-education is huge factor in the United States indecision on a UHC plan. Last autumn, the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest found this out firsthand. “Our organization interviewed people on the streets of New York City and asked them if they'd prefer "government" health care or "universal" health care. They overwhelmingly chose "universal" health care. Nobody realized that they were the same thing” (Center 2009). What's worse, when asked how much more they'd be willing to pay in taxes to support universal health care, many responded, "We want it to be free, like in Europe and Canada."

It is a commonly addressed fact in this argument that the United States is one of the few modern nations that does not provide some type of UHC for its entire people. The government does directly cover a little over one-quarter of the population through health care programs for the elderly, disabled, military service families and veterans, children, and the poor (Search 2010). Federal law ensures public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. However, this has been one of the large contributors to the rising health care portion of the federal budget.

Any UHC option will have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas such as defense, education, or even medical research and development. This is a tradeoff that most Americans would not be willing to make. This is especially true since the health care expenditures in the United States are the highest of any developed country, at 15.3% of GDP.  The country with the next highest spending is Switzerland, at 11.6% of GDP. Which may cause the public to ask “Why spend more money on big government programs that MIGHT work? When we already spend so much on things that don’t work?” The National Center for Health Statistics calculated in 2005 that the U.S. spent twice as much on health care per capita ($7,129) than any other country.

It is also argued that most countries that have some kind of universal coverage generally spend less.  This is because the costs of a universal system are less than private.  Drugs can be purchased in greater bulk, prices for services can be negotiated at a lower rate due to the larger pool, and a large singular system would reduce the overhead involved in...
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