Updated: Sep 18
It is a tragedy that so many Americans lack access to affordable healthcare, but the United States can meet all of its citizens’ needs without resorting to socialized medicine. Universal healthcare means that anyone who gets sick would be able to get treatment. President Obama tried to accomplish this through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which requires all Americans to get health insurance. In order to make that possible, insurance companies are required to offer affordable insurance even to people with pre-existing conditions, and the government subsidizes the cost of insurance for people who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, took a different approach: socialized medicine. In England, most doctors and nurses work for the government in clinics and hospitals built and operated by the government. Through analyzing socialized healthcare in other countries, many Americans can see that this is not the system they actually want, but many have been misinformed thus far on the facts surrounding healthcare in America.
Throughout the 2020 election, the theme of healthcare was very controversial, as Republicans mischaracterized Obamacare as socialized medicine and called the people who supported it a name with historically challenging connotations: socialists. On the contrary, Obamacare is a hybrid system that gives all Americans access to healthcare on the free market, as healthcare is provided by individual doctors and private companies, rather than directly through the government and its annual budget.
Every fiscal year, American politicians try their best to allocate funds among all the different needs in the country. However under socialized medicine,if they would wrongly assess and not spend enough money on something, there would be consequences; for example, serious wait times for medical treatment. Even if everyone could see doctors for free, the doctors might not be available for months. Further proof of the consequences associated with socialized healthcare are evident in other countries around the world. In England, when a particular medicine is in short supply, doctors may have to get special permission from the government to prescribe it to more than a certain number of patients.
Additionally, when healthcare is directly tied to the bureaucracy of government, all healthcare workers work for the government, and it effectively sets the price for all medical procedures. As a result, to keep prices under control, the government sets doctors’ salaries, with the result that doctors in countries with socialized medicine are paid less. Accordingly, the best doctors either leave the country or go into private practice where they can charge higher fees, but these private doctors are not covered by their country’s public healthcare system. Therefore, only the richest people can afford to be treated by the best doctors. Moreover, since most people don’t have a choice about where to go, there is no incentive for one hospital or doctor to compete against other hospitals or doctors in the quality or cost of their care. In our current healthcare system, there is inherent competition built into every aspect of America’s society that bleeds into the way insurance companies set rates and cover individuals.
Even in America, without socialized medicine, many people have concerns about the government's access to their private information and are fearful that it might be misused. In actuality, these fears are not justified. With America’s current healthcare setup, there are laws that limit the government’s ability to spy on its own citizens that particularly extend to medical conditions and treatment. However, if the government is someone’s healthcare provider, as it is with socialized healthcare, every time a citizen seeks medical care, they are directly sharing their private information with the government. Many people would avoid being tested for sexually transmitted diseases or enrolling in a drug rehab program if they knew this could be part of their public record.
In the current American healthcare system, when doctors tells patients that they need to take a certain medicine and the patients are responsible for paying a portion of the medicine’s cost, the patients will naturally check if they already have that medicine at home in order to avoid the expense. However, if the government covers the entire cost of that medicine, then patients might not even bother to check and end up picking up medicine that they already have. In fact, since countries with socialized medicine often face shortages, most patients will take advantage of an extra prescription by creating a stockpile of medication at home. This fear of shortages leads to an unnecessary accumulation of medicine, which can create the very shortage that prompted the original frenzy. No household should feel the need to hold on to medications in fear of a national supply running out.
Given all the problems with socialized medicine, Americans are better off having developed a solution of their own. However, Americans need to be better informed about the different kinds of healthcare systems used around the world and appreciate the differences between Obamacare and the widely discredited socialized medicine.
Photo Credit: Global Science Excel