According to the World Health Organization constitution, health is considered as one of the fundamental human rights. The Universal health care systems are an all-encompassing category that ensures the measures taken up by the government to ensure cheap affordable health care for everyone.
The goal of this system is to provide health coverage for everyone.
This system aims to provide:
- Promotion of highest achievable health standards
- Preventive measures against diseases
- Treatment for infectious as well as non-infectious diseases
- Palliative care in case of terminal diseases
Universal healthcare aims to create a sustainable developmental model where special care is taken to ensure the wellbeing of not just the present generation but the future generations as well. Thus universal health care creates the basis of an economically stable society by not only ensuring improved health standards but preventing poverty and other social maladies.
Let us look at how universal healthcare works.
Things you should know about Universal Health Care
- Universal healthcare does not mean free health care. It aims to provide health facilities at a low and affordable cost.
- Along with health financing, universal healthcare is also about ensuring a stable and competent healthcare workforce, innovations in the field of healthcare research and development, making the available top of the line healthcare technologies, information technology to spread health awareness, and legislation of necessary healthcare policies.
- Universal health care does not aim at individual treatment but also improves the general standard of the masses through proper sanitation, health awareness programs, creating a hygienic environment, and so on.
Different types of Universal Health Care Systems
There are three main categories of universal healthcare:
- Socialized healthcare- In this system, the medical infrastructure is publicly owned. The hospitals are government-owned, and the entire workforce is employed by the government. This is a cost-effective system. The healthcare system in the United Kingdom is socialized healthcare.
- Single-payer healthcare system- In this system of healthcare, the hospitals are privately owned. The government provides health insurance for everyone. Although costlier than socialized healthcare, this system provides the patients with more choices of health care facilities that can be availed.
- Private insurance- this system of healthcare allows privately-owned insurance companies to operate but under regulation. This is the system that provides the most choices in health care but is the most expensive of the three systems. Switzerland has regulated private insurance.
Pros of Universal Health Care
- Universal health care lowers the price of health care services. The medical market is regulated by the government so that free-market based competition which increases the cost of healthcare can be avoided. This prohibits market competition as is common in the privatized system of healthcare. Thus the healthcare system no longer remains a profit-driven venture.
- Universal healthcare systems lower administrative costs. A privately owned health care system has integrated expenditures for health care which increases the overall price the patient has to pay for several stages of administration. The universal health care systems, replaces the multiple agencies with a single agency, thus effectively reducing the health care cost.
- It simplifies the process of achieving quality health care. In a privately owned healthcare system, multiple authorizations from multiple agencies, such as the insurance company, the doctors are required which slows down the process of delivering health care. In the universal health care systems, this is replaced by a user-friendly process of acquiring healthcare which is straightforward and easy.
- A Universal health care system helps in the development of a competition-free medical market. The presence of profit-based service creates a system where only wealthy people can access quality essential services at high rates. This leaves behind the majority of the population from the low-income group deprived. The universal healthcare systems aim to remove such inequality in the reception of an essential service.
- The Universal health care systems help in the creation of an efficient workforce, where health care personnel outside the emergency service section provide care at an affordable price. In the privatized system there is a general rush in the emergency section, as it is the only service that is obliged by the law to provide free healthcare in times of need.
Cons of Universal Health Care
- Universal health care has a longer waiting time compared to a system of privatized healthcare. As the entire healthcare workforce works in their full capacity and the emphasis is laid on basic and essential medical service, people who seek specialized treatment have to wait for a long time before they get access to service by the health care specialists.
- Universal healthcare requires competency in the business of budget allocation. It is necessary that the budget is effectively allocated. So that government can afford to bear the expenses of the public health care system, which is an expensive affair. Also, special care has to be taken so that the allocated budget is spent economically under strict supervision since the running out of funds will create a budget deficit and necessitate a reduction of the budget from other areas. This will lower the quality of service produced in other sectors such as transportation, education, etc.
- Due to the cost-effective model of the Universal health care systems, the funding for research and development in the field of medical science is very low. This reduces the incentive for better works in the field of research and development. This limits the availability of resources, state-of-art equipment, and modern technologies that are required for the conduction of research. Therefore if it is not efficiently strategized, the universal health care systems will bring down the level of overall healthcare service provided by the state.
The universal healthcare system is a cost-effective model.
Therefore it often becomes a necessity to cut down on expenditures and expenses that seem avoidable. It becomes necessary to reduce the expenditure for the treatment of people with a terminal illness with less chance of survival. Patients who have low chances of survival might require treatments or medication which are very expensive. In such cases, to avoid such expenditure the patients may be provided with cheaper palliative treatment.
In a universal healthcare system the entire healthcare workforce work in their full capacity. As it is a cost-effective model, the state cannot spend much on increasing the size of the workforce. For this reason, often the doctors and healthcare professionals have to put in effort beyond their capacity. This puts doctors and healthcare professionals in stressful situations. If the healthcare workforce work under such a situation, the chance of inaccurate diagnosis, improper administration of medical care increase.
Since universal healthcare is a cost-effective system, the remuneration received by the doctors and the rest of the workforce is much lower than what it is in a privatized system of healthcare. This lack of incentive might worsen the doctor-patient relationship. The doctors in the universalized health care system might not be as invested. The patient might not receive quality professional care from this system of healthcare.
This is how universal health care systems work. When properly regulated and planned, universal healthcare creates a basis for holistic social development.