Universal Healthcare Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

When my cousin—who lives in London—told me that she would not be able to see a therapist for at least four months because of the NHS (England's National Health Service), I was taken aback. Whenever I had wanted to see a therapist in the past, I had simply searched recommended local therapists online and then called them to schedule an appointment. I don’t think it ever took me longer than an hour to get connected with a mental health professional. The thought of having to suffer for months without help would only make me more anxious. So, when my cousin found herself on a four-month waitlist, I thought there must be something wrong with her healthcare plan.

Photo via Big Think

Over the next few weeks, I decided to do some more research on what differentiates the healthcare system in the United States from the healthcare system in the United Kingdom. What I found is that healthcare in the UK is universal, meaning that every citizen is guaranteed healthcare, and the funding for this health care is supplied by the government through taxation and endowments from National Insurance. The very basic necessities of healthcare are provided by the National Health Service, known as the NHS, and if you want more specialized treatment you can either put your name on a waiting list or pay for a private insurance plan.

The healthcare system in the United States is, to speak lightly, a mess. While the Trump administration is trying to move away from Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), they cannot completely abandon the system that was set up under the Obama administration because they do not have another fool-proof plan in place yet. President Trump also wants to repeal the tax on those who do not have health insurance, thereby removing the incentive for those people to get on a health insurance plan. Recently, the United States’ healthcare system was ranked last in performance compared to ten other countries by the Commonwealth Fund. It was also noted that the United States’ healthcare system was the most expensive yet least effective. In summation, our country cannot agree on a way to move forward with our healthcare.

Photo via Forbes

Before hearing of my cousin’s experience with the NHS, I was pretty much on board with universal healthcare. It seemed like the way to go in order to ensure that everyone had at least their basic medical needs tended to. I was especially unhappy with the way healthcare was being handled in the United States, which only pushed me more towards siding with universal healthcare. However, I quickly learned that universal healthcare is not all it is cracked up to be. While we may see it as a better alternative to what we have in the United States, the truth is that it is not perfect by any means. Our government needs to strongly reform the healthcare system to make health insurance more available and cost-effective for everybody, not just those who can pay for it. If we had sufficient funding to enact universal health insurance, this might be a feasible solution. However, the United States is in a great amount of debt and does not, as of now, have the necessary resources to support universal healthcare.

Photo via Forbes

One of the reasons why Britain’s healthcare is not as effective as it intends to be is because the NHS does not have adequate funding. The Independent recently published an article on the subject of NHS rationing their services due to lack of funding. If they could somehow receive the necessary funds to provide adequate healthcare for everyone, their system might just work. Other countries like Canada, Switzerland, and Singapore have, in comparison, successfully enacted universal healthcare without entering into the massive debt that we see in the United States. Switzerland and Singapore have advanced economies that manage to spend a fraction of the cost on healthcare in relation to the United States. Canada’s healthcare system has been compared to Medicare, if Medicare was available to everyone. Many people in the United States have recently begun to look up to Canada in light of our government situation, but if the United States had Canada’s healthcare system, we would see wait times similar to those in the UK. This highlights the fundamental problem with universal healthcare: how does a country ensure that everyone can receive adequate and efficient healthcare without requiring them to pay for it?

Universal healthcare is great in theory—nobody has to pay extortionate fees to be provided with basic services—but in practice, it falls short of perfect. Instead, what ends up happening is a divide akin to the one we see in the United States: those who can afford private healthcare end up with better treatment options and are treated to sooner than those whose healthcare is paid for by the government.

 

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