There is a group of 34 nationsthat calls themselves the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These nations are some of the most developed in the world. They each have many things in common, but for the United States and Mexico, there is something that is very different. These are the only 2 nations in that group of 34 that does not offer health care as an entitlement.
The free market system is especially important in the United States, but before the issuance of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known popularly as Obamacare, over 15% of Americans didn’t have any health insurance at all. Those who support socialized medicine say that everyone should be able to live the longest, most fulfilling life that is possible. Opponents say that health care is a personal responsibility and not a government responsibility.
In looking at the subject of socialized medicine, there are other pros and cons that must be considered as well if the US and Mexico are to join the world standard in providing universal health care coverage.
What Are the Pros of Socialized Medicine?
It lowers health care costs because prices aren’t driven by supply and demand.
For the United States, socialized medicine could save the economy nearly $2 billion in economic spending over the first 10 years it is implemented. That’s money that would normally have gone to hospital and doctor bills, but could be spent on something else.
It reduces the risks of premature death in the population.
It is believed that a lack of health insurance translates into a 40% higher risk of a premature death, according to research that was conducted by Harvard. Those that are in the higher age demographics see the highest spikes in premature death that are directly related to a lack of comprehensive health care.
It is the world standard.
In 1948, the United States signed a UN declaration that declared everyone should have a standard of living that is adequate for their health needs, including health care. In 2005, the US signed a WHO resolution that declared access to health care should not cause a financial hardship. Truman, a Democrat, was President for the first signing. George W. Bush, a Republican, was present for the second signing.
It could save family finances.
Consumer Reports showed that the top financial problem for the average American family is to pay for their health care. In the last 10 years, just the cost of health insurance premiums has risen by 80%. 3 out of 5 Americans delay getting the checkups or care options they feel they need because they don’t have the money to pay for care. If publicly financed health care was available, even when considering the increased tax burden it would cause, 95% of Americans would save money.
Socialized medicine would improve economic productivity.
People who have less access to health care are people that are sick more often, miss work more often, and die earlier. People without health insurance miss an average of 5 days of work more per year than people who have comprehensive health insurance. The end result is that billions of dollars are lost every year because people are sick at home, making this one of the largest preventable costs available today.
It could create higher levels of health accountability.
People don’t like being told by their doctor that they are in poor health. The simple fact that the general population could use socialized medicine for regular checkups could create higher levels of health accountability, which may have a direct impact on the overall obesity rates that the US in particular is experiencing.
It would create the foundation of a society that could actually say it was “just.”
Being fair doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone gets the same things, but it does mean that everyone gets the same starting point. In a free market system, health care is still rationed, as proponents fear socialized medicine would be, but it is rationed to those who can afford it. Two people, one wealthy and the other in poverty, go to the doctor. The wealthy person can go on their own time and have confidence that tests will be ordered. The person in poverty must go to the emergency room, prove their economic status, and hope that the right tests will be ordered to catch a health problem.
What Are the Cons of Socialized Medicine?
It would create a massive doctor shortage.
The United States is already tens of thousands of doctors short of meeting the basic minimums that are required for proper care. Obamacare has exposed this shortage as some communities have wait times for basic checkups that are 6 months or more. In the UK, where socialized medicine is in place, there are fewer than 3 doctors for every 1,000 people. That creates environments where doctors are overworked and that means an important diagnosis could be missed.
It could lead to the rationing of health care services.
In many nations that have socialized medicine already, health care budged are rationed through the use of controlled distribution. If drugs can provide a good quality of life for a dictated price, then they’ll be approved for distribution. If they are unable to provide a reasonable cost, then they will be denied even though they could potentially save a life. The end result is that people would still need to seek out private health care services.
It will raise taxes.
In European countries where socialized medicine is the standard of care, payroll taxes hover around the 40% mark. In the United States, the average amount of payroll taxes that are taken out of a paycheck is about 15%. In effect, instituting socialized medicine in the United States for everyone would cause everyone’s taxes to double.
It would make it more difficult to see specialists.
In the United States right now, the average wait time for a patient who needs to see a specialist for some reason is right around 18 days. In Canada, the average wait time is around 60 days. It is not uncommon for people to need to wait at least two months for care in most countries that have some form of a universal health care program in place.
Government deficits will get worse over the next 20 years.
As the Baby Boomers all reach retirement age in the 65+ age demographic over the next two decades, their health care needs are going to increase. Because they are one of the largest population demographics in the US with over 70 million people, this means costs are going to go up as well. This will have a detrimental effect on government budgets for more than a generation.
It would likely lower the earnings of doctors.
Doctors in the US are not supportive of universal health care because it would change their standard of living. When US specialists are compared to UK specialists, the UK doctors earn half of what the US doctors make. Even current government insurance shows that payments to doctors from Medicare are about 20% lower than private insurance payments. The result could be fewer students entering the field of medicine, which would result in even greater doctor shortages.
Health care would be overused for quite some time.
When people do not perceive that they are responsible for the costs of their actions, then they are more likely to use and potentially abuse the systems that are in place. For health care, this would mean more visits to the doctor that would typically be considered unnecessary.
Socialized medicine is seen as a step away from democracy.
A majority of Americans favor keeping the health care system as it is today, partially because they see socialism in socialized medicine. Many believe socializing medicine would create a slippery slope where other government services would then be created to interfere with the natural order of a person’s life.
Is Socialized Medicine the Solution the US Needs?
The advantages of socialized medicine must be weighed against the disadvantages of it to determine if it is the right course of action to take. On one hand, democracy and freedom of choice are valued components of the American society that many don’t want to give up. On the other hand, a hospital charging a couple $200,000 because of a due date that was inaccurately predicted seems unreasonable. Socialized medicine would protect a couple from that charge. Free market medicine would demand payment.
Federal law requires emergency treatment whether a person can pay for it or not. That is not in question. The quality of that care is what is at stake. Would a person with no money for health services have better care at the mandated emergency room or through the practice of socialized medicine? For all but 2 countries, the answer has been the latter instead of the former.
By weighing these pros and cons, you can choose which site of the debate that you feel is appropriate as well.