Should the United States adopt universal healthcare?


Riley Garland

Norah Johnson:

The quality of healthcare in the United States is not proportionate to the massive costs it represents for most citizens. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, in 2016, healthcare expenditures per person in the United States were $10,348; this is 31 percent more per capita than the next highest country, which is Switzerland. However, the quality of our health outcomes are not 31 percent better—the only thing we have gained from these expenditures is a broken system of inefficient competition.

Some claim that it is not the role of the federal government to intervene in the healthcare system. However, correcting market failures is hardly outside the prerogative of the federal government. If the market fails to produce a profit for a sector, it is neither new or noteworthy for the government to intervene to allow for long-term stabilization. A market failure within a sector of the economy providing an essential good doesn’t kill the companies, but rather it is consumers who have to pay more to cover the companies’ inefficacies.

Supporting a single-payer system comes down to basic economics. Federal government intervention would lower overhead costs, despite what you may have heard about bureaucratic inefficacies. Private insurers expenses can be slashed when you no longer have to pay for unnecessary expenses. Health care companies’ expenditures would drop by a minimum of 15 percent, and individuals would actually be paying for healthcare instead of an advertising budget. Administrative duplication could also be eliminated in a single-payer system, helping the further lowering of overhead costs.

While the number of uninsured Americans is on the decline, the number of Americans who are underinsured is increasing. People are opting for the plan that they can afford with the smallest monthly premiums. Consequently, this runs the risk of them being unable to afford copays or unable to reach deductibles, leading to them only seeking medical care during a crisis. People who avoid preventive care due to expenses come back with more serious and more costly conditions. A standardized plan would allow for comprehensive coverage and would eliminate companies trying to slip out of their responsibility to cover care.

It only makes sense, both financially and morally, that a system of healthcare extending coverage to every individual be adopted. It is time that the
Unied States adopts a universal system.

Riley Garland:

The adoption of socialized medicine would create a system of either insurmountable costs or poor quality, if not both.

Often, proponents of a universal system point to healthcare expenditure in the United States being higher than other nations. Taken at face value, this is true. What these numbers don’t reflect is that in countries with universal systems, the government artificially reduces costs by suppressing the incomes of medical workers, primarily doctors and nurses. This essentially shifts the burden of cost from consumers to medical workers, and would be equivalent to taxing doctors and nurses to cover care.

When it comes to real resources expensed, our country actually does very well. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, the United States uses far less resources, including staff, beds and physician visits, while achieving the same outcomes. The only category where our system exeeds others is in technology used.

Proponents of a socialized system also often compare infant morality or life expectancy rates to other countries, mostly European. However, the United States is a huge and diverse country, compared to the smaller and often homogenous countries of Europe. When healthcare is analyzed state by state, some places, like Utah, compare favorably to European countries, while others, like Texas, fail to stack up. Research shows that factors like cultural eating habits, lifestyle choices and ethnic composition have a lot more to do with the health of the population than the actual healthcare system.

Aside from these points, the main issue with a universal system is that it would either substantially increase government costs, and thus taxes, or diminish the quality of care patients receive. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that when you offer a resource that is rival and excludable at no cost, demand surges while supply drops, creating a shortage. Either that shortage will persist, or the government will have to astronomically increase taxes to cover expenditures (Bernie Sander’s proposed plan would raise taxes widely and still fall short over one trillion dollars per year). To demonstrate shortage, in the United States, only five percent of Americans wait more than fiour months for surgery. In Canada, which has a socialized system, that number is 27 percent. Moreover, in the United Kingdom, with it’s famous National Health Service, that number is 36 percent.

While we certainly have problems, the answer is just as certainly not a socialized system.