Universal Health Care

How Much Will Free Health Cost? If you were to ask any American if he or she would like to receive free health care for the rest of their life, I am pretty sure they’re answers would all be the same. With governors in more and more states, such as Massachusetts and California, recently throwing proposals to legislature and presidential candidates in the upcoming 2008 election pitching their ideas for a universal health system, why don’t we just give the people, what some believe, is their right of citizenship?

The answer is because it’s simply not that simple. Universal Health Care is a matter of controversy because although it has the potential to help a country where over 40 million people are uninsured, it also has carries many costs with those benefits. Close to 16 percent of the American population lacks health insurance. This number has been steadily increasing since 2005, with the percentage of working adults (18-65) who had no coverage increasing from 19. 7 percent in 2005 to 20. 2 percent today.

Also in 2005, nearly 15 percent of employees had no employer-sponsored health coverage available to them, either through their own job or through a family member. Some states have proposed ideas that would help companies that already provide health benefits because it would “force their competitors to ante up for health care also”, said Scott Hauge, president of the advocacy group Small Business California. But that could be perceived as unfair by some companies with young workers, whose “invincibility-of-youth syndrome” means they’d prefer cash to health benefits they believe they don’t need, he said.

Perhaps the most controversial issue is who will pay for the coverage. While critics of universal insurance proposals have continually argued that covering everyone would simple cost too much, many economists point out that “industrialized nations with universal coverage spend less per capita on health care than the United States”, with countries like Australia, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland all spending less than the United States’ $6,102 per capita.

The facts are though that the United States spends nearly $100 billion per year to provide health services to those who are uninsured while hospitals provide about $34 billion worth of uncompensated care a year. Stanley Dorn, a senior research associate at the liberal Urban Institute, states that with employers paying 75 percent of workers health-premium costs, about $500 billion compared to the approximately $170 billion that workers paid, in 2005, “most of the money outside the government is spent on health care”.

While few politicians today will say America cannot afford universal coverage, both sides agree that the costs will be high and that is why most proposals for universal coverage do call on increase spending in government. As mentioned before, America is not the only nation to propose or even think about creating a universal health coverage system. Virtually all of Europe has publicly sponsored and regulated health care. Most countries implement it through legislation, regulation and taxation.

Legislation and regulation direct what care must be provided, to whom, and on what basis. Taxation funding is partly local and partly government based. The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system. And not only are Americans paying more for health care than those in any other industrialized country, but they are getting lower-quality care than consumers in countries with universal coverage.