“Let’s just say I’m a believer in universal, single-payer healthcare insurance.”

Charles Bock, Writer

Pros and Cons of Universal Healthcare

advantages and disadvantages of free healthcare

The concept of universal healthcare (also sometimes referred to as universal health coverage or free healthcare) has become quite popular over the past years. Universal healthcare aims to give all people the opportunity to get proper medical treatment in case they need it, independent of whether those people have the financial resources for this treatment or not.

While there are many advantages to universal healthcare schemes, there are still some issues related to this concept. In this article, the pros and cons of universal healthcare are discussed.

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Advantages of Universal Healthcare

  1. More people have access to proper medical treatment
  2. Fewer financial problems in case of emergency
  3. Bankruptcy rates related to medical treatment could be lowered
  4. People may get a higher feeling of security
  5. People would have to worry less about their future
  6. People could make long-term plans in a more profound manner
  7. Universal healthcare can increase overall life expectancy
  8. Can be especially important for children
  9. Universal health care may encourage entrepreneurship
  10. Access to proper healthcare as basic human right
  11. We should feel an inner motivation to protect the poorest in our society
  12. Risk for adverse long-term health effects may be lower
  13. Government can control healthcare costs through regulations
  14. Administrative costs may be lower
  15. Chances for diseases also depends on genetics
  16. Higher minimum standards for the treatment of patients
  17. Universal healthcare can take profit-maximization out of the equation

More people have access to proper medical treatment

One important advantage of universal healthcare is that more people will get access to proper medical treatment. In fact, many people all over the world still suffer from a lack of access to medical treatment and urgently need help in this regard. Thus, universal healthcare can be a great help for millions of people around the world who are currently not able to afford medical treatment at all.

Especially for many poor people, free healthcare can greatly improve their overall quality of life since those people will never be able to get proper medical treatment otherwise since they would simply not be able to afford it.

Fewer financial problems in case of emergency

Many people who urgently need medical treatment will often also suffer from serious financial problems. In fact, complex surgeries and other complex medical treatment can be quite expensive and many people will have to get into debt to finance those treatments. However, people will have to pay back this debt at one point in time and this can greatly confine the financial opportunities of those people.

In fact, if you have to pay back your medical debt, a significant portion of your income has to be used for it and you will not be able to use this money for other things you need.

Consequently, with free healthcare, people would no longer have to get into debt in order to finance their treatment, which could take away plenty of financial pressure from the shoulders of those people.

Bankruptcy rates related to medical treatment could be lowered

In fact, the amounts of debt people have to get for medical treatment are often enormous and some people will never be able to pay back this debt. In fact, many people have to declare private bankruptcy due to that each year.

Thus, in order to lower bankruptcy rates and to protect the local population from excessive financial burden, universal health care can also make sense in this regard.

People may get a higher feeling of security

Another upside of universal healthcare is that people may also get a higher overall feeling of security. In fact, if you know that you are covered in case of emergency, chances are that you will feel more relaxed and secure since you know that you will be able to afford medical treatment whenever it will be necessary.

People would have to worry less about their future

In general, through universal healthcare, people will also worry less about their future. Since people know that they are covered in case of medical emergency, they will have a more positive overall attitude towards life in general.

In turn, due to this more positive approach towards life and also due to the lower stress levels associated with it, also the risk to develop mental issues will be lower for many people who benefit from free healthcare.

People could make long-term plans in a more profound manner

Another benefit of free healthcare is that people would be much better able to plan for their future. In fact, if you know that you are covered in case of medical emergency, you could make plans for your future much easier since you will not have to save too much money for potential health issues.

Instead, you could just use this money for a down payment for buying a house or make other investments. Thus, universal healthcare can also make sense from a long-term perspective.

Universal healthcare can increase overall life expectancy

Universal healthcare can also be important to increase overall life expectancy of millions of people around the world. In fact, many people still cannot afford proper medical treatment right now and those people will often die from their serious health problems due to a lack of proper treatment.

Consequently, through the introduction of free healthcare schemes, those people would get access to medical treatment and their chances to survive certain diseases will be much higher.

Can be especially important for children

Free healthcare can also be especially important for children with difficult family backgrounds. In fact, if parents don’t care about their children too much, chances are that children will get neglected and may also not get proper medical treatment in case they need it.

Hence, universal healthcare can also help in this regard since children will have the opportunity to attend a doctor’s office anytime they get sick and don’t have to rely on their parents to finance their treatment.

Universal health care may encourage entrepreneurship

Some companies also provide proper health insurance for their employees. In turn, those employees will be quite thankful for this and will often hold on to their jobs since they get a high level of security out of it.

However, due to that, many people who currently work for a company will refrain from getting into entrepreneurship and to build a business for themselves since they fear losing their health insurance.

Thus, in order to encourage entrepreneurship and the implied high level of technological progress, universal healthcare can also help in this regard since it provides entrepreneurs with an additional safety net in case they get sick and can’t afford medical treatment.

Access to proper healthcare as basic human right

Proponents of universal healthcare also often claim that access to medical treatment should be considered as human right and that everyone should get help in case of medical emergency. Hence, also from an ethical standpoint, free healthcare schemes can make quite a lot of sense.

We should feel an inner motivation to protect the poorest in our society

Many of us also feel an inner obligation to help the poorest among us. In fact, it is hard to enjoy our own wealth while we have to see how other people struggle just to survive since they will often not even be able to afford proper medical treatment.

Consequently, through the implementation of free healthcare, we could not only do good for the poorest in our society, but we could also make ourselves feel much better since we would just have a much cleaner conscience.

Risk for adverse long-term health effects may be lower

If people can’t afford medical treatment, they are also less likely to attend doctor’s offices since they simply need their money for other things. However, by not getting the necessary medical treatment, people will often suffer from serious adverse long-term health consequences, which in turn could greatly lower the overall quality of life of many people all over the world.

Government can control healthcare costs through regulations

Another chance of universal healthcare is that governments could introduce rules and regulations that aim to cut the costs for basic medical treatment. In fact, in our current state of the world, many doctors make a quite good living since they often charge large sums of money for basic treatment.

However, if governments introduce flat fees in conjunction with free healthcare, overall costs for medical treatment in many countries could be lowered significantly.

Administrative costs may be lower

With universal healthcare, also the administrative costs related to medical treatment could be lowered. In fact, doctors could bill their expenses to one central government body instead of having to deal with many different health insurance companies.

In turn, processes could be made much more efficient and doctors may have more time for the actual treatment of patients rather than having to waste plenty of time on administrative work.

Chances for diseases also depends on genetics

While we can influence our chances for diseases to a certain extent through our diets and by exercising, there is also a genetic component that determines our risk to suffer from serious diseases in the future.

Hence, it can also be considered to be fair that people who won the genetic lottery support people who will be more vulnerable to certain diseases due to genetic preconditions and universal healthcare can be a great way to address for those differences in genetics and the implied different risks to suffer from certain diseases.

Higher minimum standards for the treatment of patients

In many countries all over the world, the minimum standards regarding medical treatment are rather low and patients often don’t get proper medical treatment. Consequently, free healthcare could not only be helpful to provide access to medical treatment for everyone, it could also help to raise the overall quality of medical treatment through the implementation of suitable rules and regulations.

Universal healthcare can take profit-maximization out of the equation

In our current state of the world, the healthcare industry is set up in a way that profit maximization is the main goal. However, medical treatment should not be treated as a commodity, but it should rather be considered a human right and profit maximization should therefore not play a major role in the provision of medical treatment.

Disadvantages of Free Healthcare

  1. Universal healthcare has to be funded somehow
  2. Plenty of taxpayers’ money has to be used for free healthcare
  3. May take away incentive of people to live healthily
  4. Opponents consider it to be unfair
  5. People may frequent their doctor too often
  6. Crowded doctor’s offices
  7. Excessive stress levels for medical staff members
  8. May reduce doctor’s flexibility
  9. Overall quality of medical treatment may suffer
  10. Longer waiting times for patients
  11. Lower profits for doctors
  12. Wealthy people may leave the country
  13. People may become dependent and just rely on the state
  14. Universal healthcare may increase sovereign debt
  15. Potential need to raise taxes to finance free healthcare

Universal healthcare has to be funded somehow

Apart from the advantages of free healthcare, this concept also has its drawbacks. In fact, one major problem with universal healthcare is that it has to be funded somehow. Healthcare can be quite a big expense in the overall budget of a country. Hence, free healthcare has to be funded in one way or the other and somebody will finally have to pay the piper for it.

Plenty of taxpayers’ money has to be used for free healthcare

In many countries where universal healthcare is present, plenty of taxpayers’ money is used to financed those free healthcare schemes. In fact, opponents of universal healthcare often claim that the taxpayers’ money that is currently spent on healthcare could be far better spent on other important projects instead.

May take away incentive of people to live healthily

Another disadvantage of free healthcare is that it may lower the incentive for people to live healthily. In fact, if people know that they are covered in case of medical emergency anyway, they will take less care of their nutrition and may also not exercise in a sufficient manner.

In turn, the risk for serious health issues may increase, which in turn can also lead to significant additional costs for our healthcare system.

Opponents consider it to be unfair

In general, many people claim that free healthcare cannot be justified from an overall fairness perspective. Opponents of universal healthcare claim that everyone should take care of themselves instead of relying on the government and taxpayers’ money.

People may frequent their doctor too often

Another downside of universal healthcare is that people may frequent their doctor too often. In fact, if medical treatment and examinations are free, people will have a bigger incentive to also attend doctor’s offices for rather minor issues. In turn, doctors may no longer be able to focus on serious cases since they will have to waste too much time on those minor issues.

In the long run, this could do more harm than good since resources and time will no longer be allocated to people who most urgently need proper medical treatment.

Crowded doctor’s offices

In general, through the introduction of free healthcare, doctors’ offices may also become much more crowded since more people would consult a doctor. In turn, also the risk for the spread of diseases in those doctors’ offices may increase significantly.

Excessive stress levels for medical staff members

If too many people frequent doctor’s offices as a result of free healthcare schemes, chances are that also medical staff members will suffer quite a lot from it. Nurses and doctors would have much more work to do and would also have less time for each patient. In turn, medical staff would likely be much more stressed and would also make more mistakes due to that.

May reduce doctor’s flexibility

Due to the increased level of regulations regarding medical treatment as a result of universal healthcare, doctors would likely also lose a significant level of flexibility regarding how they want to treat their patients. In turn, doctors might also have a harder time doing what’s actually good for their patients.

Overall quality of medical treatment may suffer

Since medical staff will be much more stressed and will have less time for each patient, chances are that also the quality of medical treatment would suffer quite a lot.

In fact, if more people frequent doctor’s practices due to free healthcare while the number of nurses and doctors stays constant, the result will be quite poor medical treatment and consultation, which should not be the end result of those universal healthcare schemes at all.

Longer waiting times for patients

Another problem with free healthcare is that patients may also have to wait much longer to get an appointment at their local doctor’s office since many more people will attend those doctor’s offices once free healthcare becomes a reality.

This can not only be annoying, but it can also lead to serious issues in case you need proper medical treatment for serious diseases in time but are not able to get this treatment in time due to those long waiting times.

Lower profits for doctors

Through the implementation of universal healthcare schemes, governments may also introduce a cap for medical costs for certain treatments. In turn, also the profits of doctors may suffer quite a lot and many doctor’s offices may close if those caps are too strict.

Wealthy people may leave the country

In general, those universal medical treatment schemes have to be financed somehow. Quite often, the state will try to collect the money for it from the top earners in our society. However, those top earners may get quite frustrated due to that and in the worst case, they might even leave the country and transfer their wealth to other states with lower tax rates.

People may become dependent and just rely on the state

Opponents of free healthcare also often claim that such schemes just lead to a state where people rely on the state in an excessive manner instead of taking care of themselves.

In fact, people may get the impression that the state will save them in case of emergency and that they don’t have to take care of their health anymore due to that.

In turn, people may lose their sense of self-responsibility, which is never a good thing for our society as a whole.

Universal healthcare may increase sovereign debt

If universal healthcare becomes too expensive and cannot be financed by taxpayers’ money or through other income sources, chances are that sovereign debt will skyrocket due to that.

In turn, if national debt becomes too high, governments will have less flexibility to finance important infrastructure projects and in the worst case, excessive expenses for universal healthcare may even lead to sovereign default in poor countries of our planet.

Potential need to raise taxes to finance free healthcare

In order to finance free healthcare schemes, it might also become necessary to raise taxes in many areas of our daily lives. In turn, people may no longer be able to sustain their lifestyles and may also have to lower their consumption levels.

While lower consumption levels could actually benefit our environment, they can also decrease the quality of life of many people, especially of those who have a quite materialistic attitude.

Top 10 Universal Healthcare Pros & Cons – Summary List

Universal Healthcare ProsUniversal Healthcare Cons
Universal healthcare can reduce povertyUniversal healthcare can be socially costly
Free healthcare can keep people out of debtUniversal healthcare may be unfair
Universal healthcare can reduce stressMay give people flawed incentives
Can facilitate long-term planningPeople may not care enough about their health
Universal healthcare should be a human rightCrowded doctor’s offices
Could improve overall quality of lifeHigher stress levels for medical staff members
Better access to costly medical treatmentOverall treatment quality may suffer
Lower risk for long-term health issuesPeople may become dependent on the state
Higher life expectancy with free healthcareFree healthcare may increase sovereign debt
Lower administrative costsHigher tax rates may be necessary

Do We Need Free Healthcare?

As we have seen before, there are many crucial advantages and disadvantages of free healthcare schemes. In my opinion, even the poorest person on our planet should get access to medical treatment and it should be a human right to get medical help in case of emergency.

Thus, universal healthcare can make quite a lot of sense. However, governments also have to make sure that they are able to finance those schemes in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the long run.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_health_care

https://www.thebalance.com/universal-health-care-4156211

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/free-health-care-policies

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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