Access to healthcare services is a challenge to most people in the United States (US), which is something the country should respond by adopting universal health coverage. For example, Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) is committed to the achievement of universal health coverage by increasing insurance membership of its citizens. In the long run, all Americans should have access to healthcare services, which will improve the health of the population. Obama explained that working towards universal health care coverage is one of the most robust mechanisms for achieving better health and wellbeing as well as for promoting human development (526). Universal coverage occurs when all people access health care services they need regardless of their financial hardships. However, not all Americans have access to health care because the country is one of the few developed nations that is yet to achieve universal care. There are millions of people who lack access to care because of financial challenges. All Americans should have free healthcare because the country is economically strong to finance it for further health and economic growth and development.
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Current State of Health Coverage in the US
Currently, American health insurance coverage is classified into three different groups that include government health insurance, private health insurance, and the uninsured. Public health insurance comprises federal programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, Medicare, TRICARE, CHAMPVA, and individual state health plans (Barnett and Vornovitsky 3). In fact, this health insurance type is the one that covers many Americans who seek to receive quality healthcare services. On the other hand, private health insurance comprises the coverage provided by employers or unions as well as the one purchased directly by people from insurance companies or through an exchange (Barnett and Vornovitsky 3). Furthermore, individuals who lack health insurance fall under the uninsured group, and for them to acquire healthcare services, they must pay out of their pockets.
The United States relies on the Medicare and Medicaid programs as well as the national insurance program created by the Affordable Care Act. The Act was enacted in 2010 and has seen a vast improvement in increasing health coverage. The number of Americans without health insurance has reduced from 43 percent to 16 percent between 2010 and 2015, which is one of the largest reduction in the number of uninsured in the country’s history (Obama 527). Overall, this percentage rate means that 29 million Americans had no insurance in 2015, compared to 49 million in 2010. Although the increase shows marked improvement the country has achieved in ensuring that locals have access to care services without financial strain, millions are still having problems. These people lack the funds to visit care facilities because the insufficiency of insurance compels them to pay out of pocket for the health services. Such a situation is challenging given the US is a developed economy that can offer universal care for all Americans regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Importance of Acquiring Universal Healthcare
Legal and Health Benefits
Ensuring universal healthcare is instrumental in upholding the human rights of access to health services. The US is one of the countries that upholds and advocates for the respect of the rights of every person in the world, yet it denies its people the right to health, which is only feasible by formulating a law to stimulate the implementation of free health care for all Americans. The WHO explains that women, children, and men are entitled to health care without any form of discrimination (WHO, “Health and Human Rights”). Nevertheless, the US violates this fundamental human right because it discriminates its people on socioeconomic status. In fact, accessibility to care should be non-discriminatory in terms of race or socioeconomic status (WHO, “Health and Human Rights”). As a developed nation that influences most of the activities of the entire world, the implementation of universal care means that the country will fulfill this human right.
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Free care to all Americans can enhance healthcare access for the less privileged individuals such as the poor and unemployed populations, which will significantly reduce discrimination in the health system. According to Evans, Marten, and Etienne, the most important attribute of free healthcare to all Americans is that it helps those people who are unable to afford the healthcare services when in need (864). Although the US has implemented the Affordable Care Act that has already achieved significant steps in the improvement of health for those with poor socioeconomic status, millions of poor people still lack these services because of poverty. It is only through universal health care that the disadvantaged poor members of the American society will receive an opportunity to enjoy quality care. According to Obama, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act was to help the poor access care, yet 29 million people are still unable to get insurance (527). Therefore, this number shows that the implementation of the Act will never guarantee that all Americans can gain access to care. The only way for the nation is to implement universal care for all Americans in order to eliminate discrimination on grounds of poverty within the health care system.
In addition to improving the health of all Americans, universal care could save many lives that are lost due to the lack of health insurance. The lack of health insurance coverage results in more than 44,789 deaths every year, which translates into 40 percent of increased risk to death because of the lack of healthcare coverage (Wilper et al. 2292). Wilper et al. explain that in the US, the annual death rate attributed to the lack of healthcare coverage among the working-age population is at least 140 percent larger than the figures the Institute of Medicine had found earlier (2292). The health challenges that result in these deaths are majorly caused by the inabilities to seek professional care that could either prevent some illnesses from occurring or entirely cure them. If the country could provide free healthcare for all people regardless of their socioeconomic status, the mortality rate could be reduced.
Universal health care coverage improves the situation through three major mechanisms that include having a regular source of care, receiving care whenever needed, and continuity of coverage. The lack of insurance compels people to go without healthcare coverage compared to the covered ones. For example, among a medically indigent Californian population, the loss of government-sponsored insurance resulted in reduced physician use, which worsened the control of hypertension (Wilper et al. 2293). People who lack healthcare coverage tend to visit the emergency department and are admitted for ambulatory care, which suggests that preventable conditions are an adverse consequence of the lack of free healthcare to all people (Wilper et al. 2293). Obama asserts that chronically ill individuals who lack health insurance are unlikely to have a distinct source of medical care, which decreases their probability of acquiring both primary and preventive care (526). Furthermore, those who are intermittently uninsured have a higher risk of having poor health than the insured ones (Wilper et al. 2293). Such a tendency shows that the provision of free healthcare is the best option to enhance endless continuity to healthcare access, which is a hallmark for better population health.
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Furthermore, the provision of free healthcare to all Americans will significantly reduce the cost of healthcare in the country, which can help boost the economy. Evans, Marten, and Etienne reiterate that universal healthcare coverage directly promotes the growth and development of the economy because it protects the public from illnesses, which makes the population more productive (864). Many industries and business organizations solely rely on health workforces to advance their operations that result in the generation of revenue for the country. When people have increased access to healthcare services, they tend to live healthier lives resulting in reduced work absenteeism, which improves their economic productivity. Without universal care, the country will continue grieving from the unhealthy population, which adversely impacts the labor force and the subsequent growth of the American economy. Evans, Marten, and Etienne further explain that the absence of universal care increases poverty among populations, which is a reliable indicator of poor economic growth (865). The reason for this is that Americans who live in abject poverty and lack health insurance are compelled to pay for healthcare services from their pockets. Thus, such a situation does not only prevent them from accessing quality care but also impoverishes them, negatively impacting their health. Therefore, the American government should implement universal care coverage to achieve substantial economic growth by enhancing population health.
The adoption and implementation of free healthcare for all Americans can help the country reduce the high expenditures it channels towards the healthcare system. In 2013, the country spent more than 17 percent of its GDP on health, which is about 50 percent more than that of France (11.6%), the next highest spender and almost twice as much as what the United Kingdom spent (8.8%) (Squires and Anderson 2). The US is the only nation on the planet that spends much of its GDP on healthcare just because it lacks universal healthcare and uses some of the most expensive equipment and diagnostics in addition to compelling its uninsured people to pay for health services out of their pockets (Wilper et al. 2292). In 2013, each resident spent an average of $1,074 out of pocket to cater to health care, which is higher than that of Sweden ($1,630), France ($277), and the Netherlands ($270) (Squires and Anderson 2). The money goes to such expenses as payment for doctor’s office visits, health insurance deductibles, and prescription of drugs.
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In regard to private health spending, the US similarly has the highest expenditure. The US private health spending in 2013 towered other developed countries at $3,442 per capita, which is five times more than what Canada spent ($654) although this country ranks second in private health spending (Squires and Anderson 2). Such expenditures are common in the nation that has no free healthcare for its people. The implementation of universal care can save some of these finances for economic growth and development. For instance, some of the saved money can help improve the poverty situation by providing many employment opportunities or paying employees as well as using the money to promote industrial activities among many others.
Moreover, “job lock” is common in the US, which adversely affects economic growth and development. Job lock is the unwillingness of an employee to change from one job to the other for fear of losing health insurance benefits. Such a thing is common in the current American world because of the insurance programs, but the implementation of universal care can eliminate the menace. Five percent of all Americans and at least 68 percent of the working-age population rely on health insurance paid by their employees (Sterret, Bender, and Palmer 45). These people are locked in their jobs because most of the individuals do not want to lose their health insurance when they change jobs. According to Sterret, Bender, and Palmer, the US employer-reliant system made the health insurance an overriding consideration in career decisions, which lowers employment dynamics since job lock reduces the employee mobility by 22.5 percent and makes employees 60 percent unlikely to leave their jobs (45). Thus, such a tendency inhibits Americans from gravitating to the most suitable jobs. Moreover, it frustrates the ability of employers to find and hire the most productive potential employees, which significantly limits productivity.
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Notwithstanding, the current insurance systems that promote job lock hinder entrepreneurial activities in the country, denying the economy revenues. More than 1.6 million small business American workers suffer from job lock, hurting the economy. However, with the implementation of universal care, the number will be close to zero, which will be marred by great success in the field of entrepreneurship (Sterret, Bender, and Palmer 46). It is possible only through a health system that provides universal health coverage that entrepreneurial activities will be promoted than the one in which innovators are tied to the corporate cubicles for the great fear of losing their access to affordable health services. Sterret, Bender, and Palmer further explain that if the US executes universal healthcare, more than 1.5 million new entrepreneurs will emerge (46). Such an approach is instrumental to the growth and development of the economy because entrepreneurship will increase the country’s GDP.
The Role of the US in Attaining Universal Healthcare
The American government should take the initiative to steer the country towards universal health care. It is only the government that determines and controls health care coverage as a payer, regulator, and provider of healthcare services (Bristol 8). First, the government should devise legislative amendments that can allow the implementation of universal care and abandon the current insurance ones that are unable to cover all Americans. The legal permission of this type of healthcare coverage will initiate other programs and adjustments that will lay the background for its implementation.
After the legal frameworks are adopted, the country should look for ways to finance this type of healthcare coverage as there are many funding sources. The mechanisms to finance are known as voluntary and compulsory. The WHO explains that the compulsory mechanisms include mandatory insurance payments, government charges of various sorts, and most importantly, taxes (WHO, “Arguing for”). The country can manage to finance universal health care without any problem because it has one of the largest economies on the planet. By contrast, many countries with smaller economies than the US are faring well with this type of healthcare coverage. Voluntary mechanisms comprise non-mandatory insurance among many others. Such funds can be united, which is described as a process that involves the accumulation of contributions from different people and institutions into a general pool used to pay for services of all the people who need care (WHO, “Arguing for”). As a result, the pooling of financial resources reduces or eliminates the financial risks associated with ill health (WHO, “Universal Health Coverage”). Therefore, the US should exploit all these sources of healthcare funding to make universal healthcare successful.
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The US should provide free healthcare to all Americans since it will accrue huge benefits that will positively impact the health of its people and economy. Currently, the country relies on both public and private insurance programs to finance health care, which has failed to cover all the residents. The implementation of universal care will result in respect of the right to healthcare for all without any form of discrimination. Apart from saving lives, this type of healthcare coverage will achieve better health provision for the public and a reduction in preventable deaths. Moreover, universal care will positively impact economic growth and development through enhanced productivity of a healthy population. This coverage will also help the country save much of its healthcare expenditures, which can be used in developing other sectors of the economy. Additionally, universal care for all Americans will reduce job lock, which will increase employee dynamics and entrepreneurship activities essential for economic growth. The American government can implement this coverage by first amending the law to accommodate it and then outsourcing funds to enhance its success.