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There is a looming healthcare crisis in the United States and around the world, and one of the many reasons is the lack of socialized medicine and the peddling of healthcare as a product rather than a human right. The lobbying power of health insurance companies and large pharmaceutical conglomerates almost ensures that without major reform, medical debt may never go away, at least in the United States.
The United States is not the only place with healthcare issues. Even countries with universal healthcare struggle with income inequality, which has a direct effect on the disparity of the care the rich get and that offered to the poor. The astronomical cost of advanced care means that only the wealthy can afford what they really need in times of crisis.
So is the idea of global universal healthcare within reach? Or is this a dream that will never be realized? The answer lies in the fact that there are many complex ways to approach the problem, and we need a mind shift to do it.
Perfection Is the Enemy of Progress
News flash: There’s no perfect healthcare system. While we keep looking for the perfect solution to such a complex problem, global public healthcare funding remains in crisis. So what do we do about it?
The answer is that we compromise, and put systems in place, improving them as we go along and as countries grow, learn, and determine new ways of funding universal healthcare. As long as we are looking for a perfect system, we will be at a standstill.
This means that the excessive cost of healthcare, especially in life-threatening instances, will continue to grow. Private insurance will continue to be insufficient, and medical debt will continue to be a near certainty for many families, impacting their credit scores, and often causing financial ruin.
The Universal Provider System
Every few years in the United States, politicians will put forth a proposal for a new law that essentially says Congress cannot pass a law that applies to them and not the American people or vice versa. In other words, if American citizens use one healthcare system, the government must use the same one. This should be true worldwide.
To achieve universal global healthcare, we have to remove the idea that the poor and the rich receive different treatment. Providers should, and for the most part are required to treat their patients in the same way. This incentivizes providers to make care uniform regardless of income or insurance coverage, and it incentivizes the rich to ensure that the best medical care is available across the board. At the same time, individuals who are poor shouldn’t be financially ruined by seeking healthcare treatment.
Develop Public and Private Partnerships
One thing that pharmaceutical companies do well is to innovate. In the vein of chasing profits, these companies develop new and better medications for treating various diseases. No one wants this innovation to stop, and so to establish global universal healthcare at the same time, we need to look at public and private partnerships. One success story is CHUM in Montreal, Canada. In this project, three older hospitals were merged into one larger one, Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Government and private agencies cooperated to finish this $2 billion dollar construction project, the largest healthcare public and private partnership in North America.
These kinds of partnerships enable companies to still be on the forefront of development, while also sharing the cost of that development with the government and other public entities, again ensuring the best medicines and treatment are available to everyone.
Learn From the Best
There are countries around the globe who offer socialized medicine and have systems that are actually working. From Canada to Norway, these countries are serving their citizens with coverage from birth until death, and doctors and hospitals still continue to thrive.
This requires that we get rid of the attitude that this kind of care is not possible, especially in the United States, and move forward by following the example of those already offering universal healthcare and doing it well. Switzerland is a prime example, with one of the best universal healthcare systems in the world. It is based on the mandate that all citizens must hold health insurance.
These countries, especially those in northern Europe have some of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Invest in Prevention
One of the many issues in the United States at the moment is that much of the emphasis of healthcare is on the treatment of a disease or condition once it has presented and not on prevention of those conditions in the first place.
To achieve global universal healthcare, we must focus on preventative medicine on a global scale. This means everything from educational programs to better nutrition, clean air and water, and other environmental factors we can control.
Common chronic illnesses that drive up costs like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and others can be prevented or mitigated in most cases. The reduction of these diseases would save the United States, and countries throughout the world unspeakable amounts of money in healthcare costs. It is through active prevention that we will be able to better manage costs and ease the financial strain of a universal healthcare system.
Share the Burden of Costs
One of the biggest questions about global healthcare is how the costs will be distributed. In developed countries, raising taxes is a valid answer, but in some poorer nations, there is little room for tax reform on an already underprivileged population. So what can be done about it?
For global universal healthcare to work, costs must be shared globally. This may mean charity in third-world nations, and more public and private partnerships in those areas. In other cases, global organizations can be formed, and surrounding nations that are more prosperous will need to help share the burden of costs with their neighbors.
The biggest key with global universal healthcare is a shift in mentality from selfishness and nationalism to a worldwide perspective on healthcare and the welfare of world citizens. No one entity can do it alone.
Is global universal healthcare within reach? With modern technology and communication and the innovations we have seen in healthcare, the answer is yes. The question then becomes: “Will we reach for it together?”