Week 11 Response -- Is Free Health Care Possible?


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This post is in response to the question Does free health care actually exist? posed by @anniebburg

Universal Health Care

Universal Health Care is often portrayed as “free health care” meaning that there is no cost to the consumer of the health care services. However, medical services are notoriously expensive so the cost must be picked up somewhere else, usually by a governmental agency or body. Additionally, as Niran Al-Agba (2019) points out, the phrase “universal health care” is quite misleading as most countries have hybrid systems in which finances and responsibility for decisions are “shared among federal, provincial/regional, or local governments.”

Cost to the People

Additionally, just because a country has “free” health care this does not mean that there is no cost to the people, it may just be a lower amount or done more directly than what people in the United States are used to seeing. Out-of-pocket costs for health care are quite common in countries such as Canada, Switzerland, and Singapore (Al-Agba, 2019). Additionally, in Denmark, the U.K., and Germany there are government-mandated co-payments to cover some expenses (Al-Agba, 2019).

However, as Sean Flynn (2020) pointed out in a lecture given at Oklahoma State University, what might be unknown to the public is that these out-of-pocket costs are actually extremely beneficial to the people of a country. This is due to the fact that when faced with having to spend their own money people will shop around for cheap—but good—care, driving down the price of procedures.

Can Healthcare Actually be Free?

Looking to countries that have Universal Health Care, I believe that it can be seen that truly free healthcare is not possible. This is true financially due to the material cost of providing services and also true in the terms that free universal health care is often not entirely free to those who benefit from it. I believe the United States has the potential for making healthcare procedures and items less expensive but there will always be a cost to a consumer, even if they are not initially out-of-pocket expenses.

Works Cited

Al-Agba, N.S. (2019, October 22). Four Myths About Universal Healthcare in Other Countries. https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2019/10/4-significant-misconceptions-about-universal-health-care-systems.html

Flynn, S. M. (2020, September 13). The cure that works: how to have the world’s best healthcare at a quarter of the price [Video]. OState TV. https://ostate.tv/media/1_i7w9ngz8

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