Healthcare just like food and clothing is one of the basic human needs. However, you have to pay for these basic needs. Recently, people are demanding that everyone should have access to quality healthcare regardless of their financial status, as a delay in medical treatment might put someone’s life at risk. However, the government is not accepting this demand, because the strain it will put on the economy will be huge.
Let’s try to objectively answer the most popular question: why should healthcare be free?
Alternate methods of funding the healthcare system
The government can provide make free and quality healthcare services available to people using the taxpayers’ money, but there are other options that can be considered for covering the medical costs including:
Privately acquired health insurance: Individuals may invest in health insurance plans on their own, as a means of having a backup in case of a medical emergency.
Paying out of one’s own pocket: People can simply bear the healthcare cost on their own using their income or savings. People who can manage healthcare expenses easily should do it so that less privileged people will have the opportunity to avail the following option.
Donations from charitable institutions: This option is ideal for those who can’t afford expensive healthcare but need treatment. There are many charitable institutions that cover the medical expenses of needy people. Such institutions collect donations from the public and pay for the needy’s medical expenses.
Social health insurance: This is a very practical approach that involves collecting a pool of funds from those who are earning/working, their employers, and sometimes even the government. The amount gathered serves as a health security fund. This allows for costs to be distributed amongst a larger group, rather than just the government. Every resident of the country is usually eligible to benefit from this regulated fund.
In most countries, healthcare services are funded by a mix of all these measures because reliance on the government is not viable. However, proponents of free healthcare in the US argue that being one of the richest countries in the world, it would be a shame if a percentage of its population had to remain deprived of healthcare facilities.
People are also debating whether the Declaration of Independence promised them free healthcare or not. This is a political as well as legal matter. The US Constitution, as per its Preamble has a purpose to serve i.e. to “promote the general welfare;” and people believe that healthcare is essentially a part of the general welfare. There are people who oppose this idea using the fact that the government is only responsible for promoting and not providing any such services.
Advantages of free healthcare
1. Decreased costs
It is argued that free medical care can significantly reduce the healthcare cost of the country. People don’t have to pay consulting fees to the physicians on every visit. They are on the government’s payroll and will receive a fixed monthly salary. Moreover, free healthcare may also bring down the administrative cost as the government will be the only buyer of prescription drugs and medical equipment. Therefore, prices will remain regulated and there is no room for multiple vendors giving different quotes.
A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, as cited in Britannica, stated that a uniform healthcare system could reduce the nation’s costs by up to $1.8 trillion dollars over a period of ten years.
2. Better economy
When the citizens of a country are healthy, they will be more productive. Some advocates believe that free healthcare would positively impact the economy of a country.
3. Savior of lives
Not everyone can afford health insurance, nor do they have the resources to pay for expensive medical treatments out of their own pocket. This means that a lack of free healthcare consequently poses a threat to their lives.
According to a study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund in 2014, the healthcare system of the US is not effective when compared with the ten other countries surveyed. Unavailability of medical care within people’s budgets may have been one of the reasons for this outcome.
The disadvantage of free healthcare
Healthcare is expensive and there will be free healthcare pros and cons. This means that a free-of-cost healthcare system would result in the country going beyond its debt ceiling. Alternatively, the government would fund free healthcare by collecting additional taxes from the public, which is not possible because the tax-paying ability of low-income groups would stay the same.
Let’s find other disadvantages of the free healthcare system.
1. Free healthcare would be dealing with chronic diseases first
Chronic diseases result in lifestyle choices of individuals and approx. 90% of the health budget is spent on them. If the whole health system would be free, the tax shelf would be greater for every individual. Plus, you will be paying the healthcare tax for someone else’s treatment as well, which sounds unfair to some.
2. From free healthcare, the service quality can be compromised
Once the healthcare facilities get free for all, the number of patients would instantly spike. This means that the nurses and doctors will have to spend extra duty hours to treat as many patients as possible in a day. Eventually, the quality of healthcare service would reduce drastically.
3. Free healthcare will make people care less about their health
When financial coverage is provided to people, they mostly ignore their health. For instance, neglect the importance of eating healthy, staying fit, and taking proper precautions, and will adopt an unhealthy lifestyle that eventually harms them. And all of this because they know they won’t have to pay anything for their healthcare.
Why should healthcare be free? The discussion above delivers the answer. But it should be. That’s the ideal answer anyone can come up with. But is it practically possible? Not at the moment considering the budgetary constraints as well as other variable options.