*The following information is current as of 1999.
The Truth Behind Universal Health Care:
The World Health Organization ranked the health care systems of 190 countries. The United States ranked 37th on this list.
Most current figures from the United States Census Bureau reveal that a record number of 45 million Americans are uninsured at this time (2).
Research across the globe has shown that lack of access to health care and medicines commonly causes poverty or forces families further below the poverty line. This means that low-income families in the United States often are forced to choose between health care coverage and basic human needs such as housing and nutrition. Consequently trips to the emergency room replace regular doctor visits. Also, “lack of health coverage can be a major reason that low-income single parents lose jobs, because they lack access to preventive care, they or their children become sick and are forced to miss work or school” (2).
IOM (the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine) has been studying health care in the United States for three years now, and has published six reports on health care issues. The IOM recommended in January 2004 that policymakers work towards universal health coverage by 2010. As well the IOM urged that all health care reform in the United States have a base formulated by the following five principles:
Of 30 industrialized nations the United States is the only one that does not—as a right of citizenship—guarantee access to health care. Germany alone has a multi-payer universal health care system, while the remaining 28 industrialized nations have single-payer health care systems (3).
The United States may make claim to having the best health care system in the world.
Down from 12th in 1960 and 21st in 1990, the United States currently ranks 23rd in infant mortality rate.
Down from 1st in 1945 and 13th in 1960, the United States has fallen to rank 20th in life expectancy for women.
Down from 1st in 1945 and 17th in 1960, the United States now ranks 21st in life expectancy for men.
Overall, the United States is ranked 67th for immunizations. Individually, immunization ranks range from 50th to 100th.
The United States ranks below Canada and a wide variety of industrialized nations as shown by studies on various diseases.
Despite having some of the finest-trained health care providers and the most excellent medical infrastructure of any industrialized nation, the United States still—in relation to other industrialized nations—ranks poorly(3).
Universal health care would be too costly.
In comparison to any other industrialized nation with universal health care, the Unites States spends at least 40% more per capita on health care.
Despite covering all the uninsured and increasing already active health care benefits, federal studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office show that converting to single payer universal health care would save 100 to 200 billion dollars per year.
Again, despite covering all the uninsured and increasing already active health care benefits, state studies conducted by Massachusetts and Connecticut have shown that single payer universal health care would save 100 to 200 billion dollars.
Since Canada changed to a single payer, universal health care system in 1971, the costs of health care in Canada as % of GNP—that were identical to the United States at the time of the switch—have increased at a much lower rate than have the costs of health care in the United States.
Due to lower administrative costs, single payer universal health care costs would be lower than the current United States system. As of now, the United States spends 50 to 100% more on administration than single payer systems(3).
Universal health care would leave the people without certain, necessary services.
Studies show that people in universal health care systems have more doctor visits and more hospital days than do people currently residing in the United States.
Due to payment problems or access to care, around 30% of Americans experience issues with admittance to health care servers, a number far higher than that of any other industrialized nation. Approximately 17% of United States citizens do not have health insurance, and 75% of these uninsured people have trouble paying for/accessing health care.
In comparing Canada and the United States, it appears that Americans experience greater difficulties in accessing health care than do Canadians.
Health care access is directly related to income and race in the United States, and has resulted in the less wealthy and minorities having poorer health than the well-off and whites.
Because the United States has a 30% oversupply of medical equipment and surgeons, there would be no waiting lines under a universal health care system, as demand would increase only 15%.
A universal health care system would allow all United States citizens access to health care; not only those with the ability to pay. Because of the economic status of the country—in the oversupply of the providers and infrastructure, along with the ability and willingness of the United States to spend more on health care than other industrialized nations—waiting in lines for proper care would not become an issue(3).
A universal health care system would result in government control, negatively affecting health care and infringing on the people’s right of choice.
Under a single payer universal health care system there would be a choice of healthcare providers, dissimilar to the current managed system where people must only see providers listed on the insurer’s panel to access medical benefits.
Fees would be set under a universal health care system like they are now in 90% of cases. A major difference would be that providers would have a way to negotiate fees for the patients benefit, unlikewith the current managed system in which fees are generally set with potential profits in mind.
Taxes, fees and benefits would be determined by the insurer, who would be under the control of a diverse board of people consisting of consumer, provider, business and government representatives. The system would not be at the hand of the government, although the government would have to approve the taxes. A public trust, not the government, would run the system.
Changing to single payer universal health care, administered by a state health system would actually be much less intrusive than the current system of the United States. The voices of both consumers and providers would be heard and their messages applied in determining benefits, rates, and taxes. Confidentiality would not be breeched if people sought to receive services of different health care providers, as they would not need to apply for the change (3).
Universal health care is a form of socialized medicine and would be unacceptable to the people of the United States.
Socialized medicine is in part, by definition “a government regulated system…”(4). But single payer universal health care is not socialized medicine as it is a health care payment system not a healthcare delivery system. In such a delivery system health care providers would be in fee for service practice. The providers would not be government employees, as they would be with socialized medicine. It is true that the public would fund universal health care but the government would not administer it.
National and state polls have repeatedly shown that between 60 and 75% of Americans would prefer a universal health care system.
Single payer universal health care would actually be preferred by many United States citizens and is not a form of socialized medicine (3).
The problems with the United States health care system are being/are best solved by the current system of corporate managed care medicine, which is most efficient.
The public sector is the most efficient part of the current United States health care system; Medicare spends only 3% of premiums on administration. Conversely, private for profit organizations—that spend 20-30% of premiums on administration and profits—are the least efficient delivery method of health care.
From the years 1990 to 1996, the cost of health care in the United States grew more under managed care than any industrialized nation with single payer universal health care.
It has been reported that the quality of health care, under the managed system has deteriorated and access problems have increased. The number of uninsured Americans has climbed from 10 million in 1989 to 43.4 million in 1996.
Research shows that satisfactory with the United States health care system is the lowest of any industrialized nation.
Specifically 80% of citizens and 71% of doctors believe that health care quality has been compromised under the managed care system.
The problems with the United States health care system are not currently being solved under managed care. Due to the system health care quality and thus satisfaction has actually gone down while the costs of adequate care the number of insured have gone up (3).
1. "The World Health Organization's Ranking of the World's Health Systems." www.geographic.org. World Health Organization. 9 Mar. 2007 <http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html>.
2. "Background on Health Care." Results.Org. Results. 9 Mar. 2007 <http://www.results.org/website/article.asp?id=839>.
3. Battista, John R., and Justine McCabe. "The Case for Single Payer, Universal Health Care for the United States." Connecticut Coalition for Universal Health Care. 4 June 1999. Connecticut Coalition for Universal Health Care. 28 Feb. 2007 <http://cthealth.server101.com/the_case_for_universal_health_care_in_the_united_states.htm>.
4. Dictionary.Com. 2007. Dictionary.com. 8 Mar. 2007 <http://dictionary.reference.com/>.
Universal Health Care