With the upcoming 2020 presidential election, every candidate is fighting for a spot to be recognized as a possible future president. With the recent idea of a universal healthcare system and the ever-present student loan problem, America faces a big question: is universal health care an option that we should consider implementing?
First, let’s look at the facts. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Finland have universal healthcare. Countries including Finland, Sweden, and Norway all have free universities too.
It’s important to understand the arguments for both sides — starting with Medicare.
Providing a basic universal system of healthcare to all United States citizens would be a great help and gives them a better opportunity to save money for other endeavors. In fact, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council in 2008, half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are caused by health problems. Providing healthcare for all citizens in the U.S. would greatly help those who struggle with bankruptcy.
Some argue that the U.S. Declaration of Independence, within the rights to life, liberty, and happiness, includes healthcare.
Healthcare is internationally recognized as a human right. In 1948, the United Nations declared that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including… medical care.”
Providing universal health care can raise the standard of health for everyone. According to a study by Lancet and American Journal of Public Health, in the U.S., citizens are 25% more likely to have unmet health needs, 33% less likely to have a regular doctor, and over 50% more likely to not obtain needed medicines when compared to Canadians, who have a universal right to healthcare.
However, others argue that Medicare would actually be very harmful to the US, because the cost to implement a universal healthcare system, as estimated by the US government, would be about 30 trillion dollars.
A universal healthcare system would also increase wait times for everyone. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, 9.4% of Medicaid (a federally funded healthcare system provided to lower income citizens) beneficiaries have had long wait times cause trouble with receiving adequate care, versus 4.2% of people with private health insurance.
Universal healthcare would decrease the overall quality of healthcare for everyone. In Britain, the National Health Service canceled over 84,000 appointments due to nonclinical reasons. Additionally, they had to cancel over 4,000 urgent appointments due to overflow.
So what’s the takeaway from this?
One metric to look to is the quality of life in the countries that have these universal basic incomes. Of the World Atlas’ list of the best countries to live in the world, 9 out of the 10 top countries provide universal healthcare to their citizens. The one exception is Ireland, which offers a very low healthcare cost.
This list compiled by the World Atlas takes a comprehensive study of almost all metrics of ranking education, health, governance, and freedom. While it may not seem like definite causation at first, it is clear that these countries’ top-ranked status comes from their taxation systems.
Many Scandinavian countries scale their taxes; countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden tax those with higher incomes higher percentages, according to Investopedia. Using these taxes, the countries are able to pay for their programs such as free healthcare, and in many instances, free or extremely low-cost university tuition.
Taxing those with higher incomes would provide a large portion of the money needed to implement a universal healthcare system. In addition, this doesn’t mean that everyone will have to be on the same healthcare plan– those who want their own private plans can still have them, but now everyone is provided with a basic human need of assistance in times of sickness or health problems.
A government’s job is to care for and protect its people. Those who already have lots of money can take care of themselves for the most part, and the government does not need to give them lots of assistance. But for those in society who are the least advantaged, who struggle daily with fulfilling their basic needs, the government has an obligation to do everything in their power to help them.
A just government cannot stand by and watch so many citizens fall into an almost impossible cycle of poverty that they could easily help alleviate by providing one of the most basic rights to their people. Although it would cost tons of money, the best course of action for the government to take a step towards ending poverty is to provide universal healthcare to all citizens. Saving human lives, the lives of their own people, the ones who elected government to protect them, should be a top priority for any government.