Growing up, “Jane Doe,” a BYU-Idaho student who prefers to remain anonymous, did not have access to medical care. Her parents lived with the fear that she or one of her sisters would fall deathly ill or break a bone because going to the hospital was not an option.
This is the unfortunate reality of many people in third-world countries. If everyone had proper access to medical care, the world would be a better place.
But Doe is not from a third-world country. She is from the United States of America.
Now, you might assume that Doe comes from an underprivileged family that had trouble paying all kinds of bills and that health insurance was one of many financial concerns. This is not true.
Her father is a lawyer, and her mother is a massage therapist, but neither parent’s job provided health insurance for the entire family.
Thankfully for the Doe family, everyone has stayed safe and healthy thus far. But there are many Americans who do not share the same fortune.
In the 2022 World Happiness Report, an annual study produced by the United Nations, the United States ranked No. 16 in overall happiness. It was the only country in the top 30 without some type of universal health care program.
Many Americans have a preconceived notion that countries with universal health care pay more for care than they do. This notion is not true.
The World Population Review’s most recent overview of health care costs stated that the average American pays 40% more than citizens of the next-most expensive country do.
According to the organization’s website, “The United States spends significantly more on health care than any other developed country. Despite this fact, the health care outcomes for residents are not noticeably different from other developed nations.”
The organization cites high drug costs and excessive administrative fees as major reasons for the difference in cost.
Capitalism thrives on competition. Competition drives improvement — Apple wouldn’t release a new phone every year if Samsung weren’t doing the same thing.
It also drives competitive pricing — if Apple were the only phone company, they could charge whatever they wanted, and people would pay it.
Hospitals typically don’t have competition. In a medical emergency, one goes to the nearest hospital and worries about the cost later. This allows hospitals to charge as much as they want because patients have no other option.
This concept can be compared to a delicate ecosystem. The European carp is a valuable member of the food chain in Europe and Asia.
It has enough competition to stay balanced. In North America, however, it is one of the most invasive species. It overtakes rivers and lakes, eating all the food and leaving nothing for any other species.
It has no competition.
Similarly, hospitals in other parts of the world are valuable parts of society. They provide service to all who need it and the employees take home modest salaries for their contributions. In the U.S., however, hospitals are invasive, greedy corporations that care more about profitability than they do about human lives.
Many Americans believe that a universal healthcare program would be the downfall of capitalism in the United States. However, the people who believe this fail to recognize the socialist programs that already exist in the U.S.
Parents don’t get itemized bills for each child they send to school because the general population pays for schools through taxes. Motorists don’t pay tolls for each road they drive on because the general population pays for roads through taxes. Readers don’t pay for every book they check out at the library because the general population pays for libraries through taxes.
If schools, roads, libraries and so much more can be funded by taxpayers’ money, why is it absurd to think that the money for health care — keeping people alive — could come from the same place?
Capitalism only works when potential customers have two things: other buying options and the option to refuse the product or service. With health care, neither of those is a real possibility.
Of the 11 countries in the Commonwealth Fund’s most recent Health Care System Performance Rankings, the U.S. was ranked No. 11. Countries are ranked based on access to care, care processes, administrative efficiency, equity and health care outcomes.
The U.S. ranked last in every category other than the care process, where it ranked second. This indicates that the care itself is of high quality relative to the rest of the world but that the system that governs it is subpar.
Another argument that tends to arise in the universal health care debate is that it would produce longer wait times for paying patients.
According to the World Population Review, “A common misconception in the U.S. is that countries with universal health care have much longer wait times. Data from nations with universal coverage, coupled with historical data from coverage expansion in the United States, show that patients in other nations often have similar or shorter wait times.”
Even if it were true that there would be longer wait times, the only reason for them would be that more people would be getting the medical care they needed.
Regardless of the logistics of different healthcare systems, everything should come down to one question: Is access to health care a human right?
If it is, countries should take measures, if possible, to provide care for all who need it. No person should fall into insurmountable debt to pay for health issues beyond their control.
Jane Doe and many other Americans should not have to live in fear and embarrassment because they can’t get health insurance.