Should governments provide universal healthcare?

Here’s small table taken from BalancedPolitics.org regarding the debate on universal healthcare provision in the US (a significant issue to note, since this is arguably Obama’s single greatest achievement in wrestling with bipartisan politics). Such debates are simple examples of how the state intervention issue plays out in society (refer to points 10 and 11 in your politics and governance lecture). Whether it is education, healthcare, housing or social assistance, countries have very differing opinions on the level or manner of state intervention needed.

Should the Government Provide Free Universal Health Care for All Americans? (Original link here)

Yes

No

  1. The number of uninsured U.S. residents has grown to over 45 million (although this number includes illegal immigrants, etc.).
  2. Health care has become increasingly unaffordable for businesses and individuals.
  3. We can eliminate wasteful inefficiencies such as duplicate paper work, claim approval, insurance submission, etc.
  4. We can develop a centralized national database which makes diagnosis and treatment easier for doctors.
  5. Medical professionals can concentrate on healing the patient rather than on insurance procedures, malpractice liability, etc.
  6. Free medical services would encourage patients to practice preventive medicine and inquire about problems early when treatment will be light; currently, patients often avoid physicals and other preventive measures because of the costs.
  7. Patients with pre-existing conditions can still get health coverage.
  1. There isn’t a single government agency or division that runs efficiently; do we really want an organization that developed the U.S. Tax Code handling something as complex as health care?
  2. “Free” health care isn’t really free since we must pay for it with taxes; expenses for health care would have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas such as defense, education, etc.
  3. Profit motives, competition, and individual ingenuity have always led to greater cost control and effectiveness.
  4. Government-controlled health care would lead to a decrease in patient flexibility.
  5. The health-care industry likely will become infused with the same kind of corruption, back-room dealing, and special-interest-dominated sleeze that is already prevalent in other areas of government.
  6. Patients aren’t likely to curb their drug costs and doctor visits if health care is free; thus, total costs will be several times what they are now.
  7. Just because Americans are uninsured doesn’t mean they can’t receive health care; nonprofits and government-run hospitals provide services to those who don’t have insurance, and it is illegal to refuse emergency medical service because of a lack of insurance.
  8. Government-mandated procedures will likely reduce doctor flexibility and lead to poor patient care.
  9. Healthy people who take care of themselves will have to pay for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc.
  10. In an effort to cut costs, price & salary controls on drugs, medical equipment, and medical services are likely to be put in place, meaning there is less incentive to pursue medical-related research, development, and investment, nor pursue medical careers in general.
  11. A long, painful transition will have to take place involving lost insurance industry jobs, business closures, and new patient record creation.
  12. Loss of private practice options and possible reduced pay may dissuade many would-be doctors from pursuing the profession.
  13. Malpractice lawsuit costs, which are already sky-high, could further explode since universal care may expose the government to legal liability, and the possibility to sue someone with deep pockets usually invites more lawsuits.
  14. Government is more likely to pass additional restrictions or increase taxes on smoking, fast food, etc., leading to a further loss of personal freedoms.
  15. Patient confidentiality is likely to be compromised since centralized health information will likely be maintained by the government.
  16. Health care equipment, drugs, and services may end up being rationed by the government. In other words, politics, lifestyle of patients, and philosophical differences of those in power, could determine who gets what.
  17. Patients may be subjected to extremely long waits for treatment.
  18. Like social security, any government benefit eventually is taken as a “right” by the public, meaning that it’s politically near impossible to remove or curtail it later on when costs get out of control.

Note: A similar table can be found here at ProCon.org, another excellent resource to get balanced views of key debates raging on among American legislators.

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2 thoughts on “Should governments provide universal healthcare?

  1. They could follow a model of Singaporean healthcare with a mix of public healthcare and private healthcare, therefore eliminating the externalities and at the same time prevent misallocation of resources

  2. Governments could adopt a healthcare system similar to Singapore’s. They should implement different policies to help lighten the burden of the cost of healthcare. Having Medisave, Medishield and Medifund can help people who are suffering from long term illnesses. They can use them to pay for part of their medical bill which can cost quite a large amount. Having policies where people have to depend on themselves help the government to cut down on their healthcare expenditure which could then be use on other projects.

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