The constant debates around the health care system in the United States, recently heated by the president’s health care reforms proposal, is a direct indication that the issue of health care in the United States is a painful subject. On the one hand, there is a support for the health care owned by the private sector, in which the medical treatment should be paid for ensuring higher efficiency, and on the other hand there are supporters of the opinion that health care is a right that should be accessible to everybody. The mutual point of intersection between the two groups is that both of them acknowledge that the current system needs reform (Roberts). Taking the position of the health care as a right accessible to everyone, “Sicko”, a 2007 documentary film by Michael Moore, outlined the effectiveness of such system – universal health care, showing and comparing the implementation of this system in practice in other developed countries such as Canada and France, and accordingly, pointing to the deficiencies of the current, based on insurance, health care in the United States. In that regard, this paper takes the position for universal health care, outlining the supportive arguments, as well as the arguments used by its opposition.
In the majority of universal health care system, the government’s involvement is the main approach in providing health care. In that regard, the sources of government coverage stem from general and dedicated taxation, and social insurance (McDougall, Duckett and Manku). Accordingly, it can be seen that the reliance on universal health care will lead the creation of more government positions.
Such point can be seen through Moore’s film, where the example of France is showing the social services provided by the government. Accordingly, it can be assumed that the necessity for such positions in any country adopting a universal health care system will lead to the creation of more government jobs.
Nevertheless, it should be stated that such positions imply limiting health care providers to the government, rather than that the payment methods will be regulated. In the example of France indicated in the film, the “The state sets the ceiling for health insurance spending, approves a report on health and social security trends and amends benefits and regulation”.
Following the previous argument, it can be said that government regulations will lead to a decrease in the doctors’ payment within a universal health care system. One point of controversy, which is held by the opposition of universal health care, is the possibility of health care quality reduction due to regulation of payments by the government and “enslaving the doctors”.
Looking at the representation of the doctors working in universal health care systems in Moore’s film, the doctors in Britain are paid by the government, and accordingly the system of commission implemented in Britain implies that the doctors are paid more when there are documented improvements in patients’ conditions. In such way, the doctors are interested in providing the best treatment for their patients, and at the same time the patient is sure that the aid he is receiving is not dependable on such factor as the doctors’ income.
Taking a look at other countries with universal health care such as France, where the fees are negotiable with the government, Switzerland, where the government negotiates rates with doctor organizations, and Netherlands, where insurers negotiate rates (McDougall, Duckett and Manku), it can be seen that such approach is definitely will not deprive the doctors of their rights, especially considering that negotiating imply a more flexible approach for the doctors, rather than regulation, where payments are regulated in government programs, as seen in the United States (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, The Commonwealth Fund and Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation).
Finally, the most important argument, which can be considered as the criterion, based on which the health care system should be evaluated is the effectiveness seen through the results. In that regard, one of the arguments used in Moore’s film, in addition to the accessibility of the health care to everyone, is the results of such implementation on the overall health of the population. Taking the example of Great Britain in the film, a report from the AMA (American Medical Association) into the health of 55- to 64-year-olds says Brits are far healthier than Americans. That was only one example of the way the universal health care is more effective.
Taking life expectancy as a measure, the United States is the behind the such countries as Great Britain, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Austria and France (McDougall, Duckett and Manku). Accordingly, in infant mortality rate as of 1999, the United States is ranked the last among the previously mentioned countries. In fact, the health care in the United States might have positive results in some areas, taking various positions surpassing the position of some of the countries in the list. However, it should be stated that considering the fact that “the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation,” (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, The Commonwealth Fund and Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation) it is not the leader in health among other developed countries.
Opposing the universal health care system, the arguments used vary in their effectiveness and accuracy, although some of them can be considered logical. Taking the example of the insurance company, one argument that might used can be seen in the statement that private insurance companies will go out of business. The as arguments is stemming from the fact that the current health system in the United States is largely operated by the private sector, either in provision of medical services or the insurance, where in terms of the latter the percentage of people covered by private health insurance was 67.5 as of 2007 (DeNavas-Walt et al.). Nevertheless, it can be stated that the universal health care system implies the option for private insurance companies, where taking the example of Switzerland the health system comprises of universal coverage, a mandate that everyone buy insurance and a major role for private insurance companies (McManus).
Omitting such factor as less payment for doctors, as previously explained in the example Britain, another important argument is overcrowded hospitals in universal health care systems. Such argument seems reasonable, where the examples of hospitals being overcrowded can be seen in such countries as Japan, Australia and others. In the case of Australia, Australian Medical Association stated that “there are 1500 unnecessary deaths in Australia due to overcrowding in public hospitals” (SHEPHERD). In that regard, such argument has sense, but nevertheless, it cannot be generalized on universal health care systems everywhere, rather than examples of funding issues might have led to such consequences in specific cases. Taking such factor as performance effectiveness, measured based on average length of stay, it can be seen that there are countries with universal health care that are leading with such indicators, which generally can imply that the type of health care system is not influencing such factor. Accordingly, such variables as the number of beds can be resulted from ineffective funding programs, rather than general health deficiencies.
It can be concluded that the universal health system is an option to hold to, specifically measuring such factors as costs and outcomes. Generally speaking, separate examples do not indicate the superiority of the system or its failure, while general trends examined through several developed countries shows the perspectives of such system. Universal health care is a step forward toward confirming the statement that health care is a right that is accessible to everyone.
“The State of Affairs in 16 Countries in Summer 2004”. World Health Organization. Eds. Grosse-Tebbe, Susanne and Josep Figueras. Web.
DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, et al. “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007”. 2008. Census.gov. U.S. Government Printing Office. Web.
McDougall, Ashley, Paul Duckett, and Manjeet Manku. “International Health Comparisons”. National Audit Office. Web.
McManus, Doyle. “Switzerland’s Example of Universal Healthcare”. 2009. LA Times.Web.
“Sicko”. Dir. Moore, Michael. DVD. 2007.
Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, The Commonwealth Fund, and Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Compare International Medical Bills”. 2008. National Public Radio. Web.
Roberts, Joel. “Poll: The Politics of Health Care”. 2007. CBS News. Web.
SHEPHERD, TORY. “Needless Hospital Deaths”. 2008. News Limited. Web.