Opinion: The Benefits of Universal Health Care

Nate Trees, Editor

Universal Health Care (UHC) is defined by the World Health Organization as the state in which “all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.” Simple as it seems, the topic has been hotly debated in the American political space within the last 20 or so years. While the left supports UHC, the socialism-fearing right has characterized it as an unsustainable state of communism, and thus a betrayal of the nation’s capitalist values. However, UHC’s impressive track record reveals that it isn’t just sustainable, but a wildly effective system for improving public health in any economic system.

A multitude of countries worldwide have experienced significant positive results as a product of implementing UHC policies. Infamously, Rwanda faced a devastatingly violent genocide in 1994 that killed roughly 1 million people (about 20% of the population). According to a research paper from “The Lancet,” with said violence came the rape of an estimated 250,000 women, causing an already menacing AIDS epidemic to further decimate the remaining Rwandan population. Furthermore, the deaths of children under the age of 5 grew rapidly as conventional diseases like cholera and tuberculosis saw outbreaks in refugee camps and villages across Rwanda while supply chains for medication and the availability of healthcare professionals both became more and more scarce. The rest of the world had deemed the small nation a lost cause. It was clear that something needed to be done to quell the growing public health crisis, and so in 2003, the Rwandan constitution granted each of its citizens “the unalienable right to health,” taking its first formal step towards UHC. Now, over 20 years since the genocide, Rwanda has seen a complete turn around in its public health situation: AIDS related deaths, Tuberculosis deaths and deaths of children under the age of 5 have all fallen to levels below what they were before the genocide, clear signs of improvement. Thanks to UHC, Rwanda was able to not only recover from the genocide, but grow as a nation despite it.

UHC isn’t solely a helpful remedy for small, devastated nations though, as is evident in a plethora of Asian nations. Taiwan, for example, utilizes its National Health Insurance (NHI) program to exemplary success. According to the Harvard Public Health Review, the program provides 23.4 million people with high quality health care at “an annual administrative cost of 1.06% of the total NHI budget, and with high public satisfaction (80%)” by drawing funding from extraneous sources of citizen income like second jobs, rental income, bonuses, etc.

It’s also important to remember that not all universal healthcare systems are necessarily completely socialist. While “Single Payer” systems rely on local, regional, or federal governments to fund and provide health insurance in various forms, most western UHC providers (including Canada, France, Australia, and Germany) all use a “Multiple Payer” system in which the government funds healthcare, but private insurance providers handle administration, claims management, quality assurance, etc.; clearly, this system maintains the citizen’s choice of provider that stimulates competitive business. UHC isn’t a singular, unconforming state of socialism, it’s a welfare goal that any modern nation can achieve within their own economic system, be it capitalist or socialist.

Put simply, Universal Health Care is not a communist plot to take away every American’s right to choose an insurance company, nor is it an unsustainable pipe-dream; it is a viable and even beneficial system of both maintaining and improving the state of public health.


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license