Effects of a Government-Provided Universal Health Care Coverage System
by Danielle Trevino on December 9, 2009 at 2:46 PM
Although one could argue that the issue of offering government-provided universal health care coverage is solely political and an issue of how much the government should be involved in the lives of its citizens, there are major economic, social, and medical implications that will assuredly arise from the implementation of such a system that must be considered. While one could point out that this argument is merely personal because my father owns his own health insurance company and my job during high school was at this company in addition to being a student in one of Texas’ top medical magnets, these connections are only part of the reason I feel so strongly about this issue and can only strengthen my argument. Government-provided universal health care coverage will without doubt bring about the destruction of the private health insurance sector, a decrease in those working in health care-related fields, lower-quality health care, and an increase in taxes and the federal deficit.
By offering universal health care coverage, it is obvious that the government would be destroying the private health insurance sector. Whatever health care coverage the government would provide would more than likely appear less expensive than private insurance, be it just below what private insurance would cost or completely free. However, “free” is a relative term and will be an issue discussed later in this essay. For now, one must address the issue of the destruction of a sector that provides jobs for well over 400,000 Americans. While 400,000 jobs may seem like a relatively small amount for a country of 300 million people, take into account the commotion that has risen from President Obama’s supposed creation and saving of over 600,000 jobs in the last year with the enactment of the Recovery Act. Not only will the nearly half a million jobs lost to those in the health insurance sector cause national unemployment levels to skyrocket, but also, one must consider that these individuals who sell private health insurance would begin seeking unemployment benefits and would no longer be earning the income to qualify them to pay in higher tax brackets. Essentially, the government would require more funds to support those affected by the implementation of a universal health care coverage system while decreasing the number of individuals that would be able to compensate for this loss of funds. Also, one could take into account the revenue that would cease to be created by these individuals’ decrease in spending due to lack of funds. In times of an economics recession, considering job loss bears particular significance.
Implementation of a universal health care coverage system in America will also lead to a decrease in health care professionals. While one would assume many patients would flock to health care facilities with their new government health insurance, thus increasing the need for health care professionals, consider the effects of Medicare and Medicaid on the health care field. It is common knowledge that the majority of health care professionals dislike Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is “overburdened and underfunded” due to additional add-ons and new benefits it covers, as is Medicare according to O'Brien (1990). The programs pay health care professionals progressively less for their work because of the lack of funding they receive, and “the federal government exercises great influence over the delivery of health care services." Any sort of government-provided universal health care coverage system will surely be an extension of Medicaid and Medicare or be modeled after these programs; at the least, one can assume similar circumstances comparable to those involving Medicare and Medicaid would ensue from a program leading towards the socialization of medicine. Because health care professionals, doctors in particular, would be paid less for their services under a government-provided universal health care coverage system, there would be less of a desire for college graduates to continue on to medical school. Many will argue that doctors are in their practice solely for their love of caring for people because this statement is ideal. However, many doctors currently in practice would not go through pricey and stressful medical school if they had no or a small guaranteed future income. With all or a majority of the country (or even an increase of the number of those currently under Medicaid and Medicare) under a universal health care coverage system, doctors will experience the same, if not worse, meager payment rates that they currently experience under government-provided health care coverage, thus leading to lower wages, and fewer health care professionals.
Because implementation of a government-provided universal health care coverage system, either as an addition to those Medicare and Medicaid programs currently intact or as an entirely new program (more than likely with a similar layout of those currently intact, packaged with a different name) will lessen the number of health care professionals in the workforce while encouraging individuals to take advantage of discounted health care, individuals will be subject to rationed health care. Also, those covered under such a system will not necessarily be treated to the same health care. Personally, I have been told stories by relatives who lived in Canada where there is government-provided universal health care that completely goes against what individuals hope such a system would achieve; it takes hours to get through emergency rooms and doctors visits are essentially “won” through raffles because they are so scarce. While many believe that at least under such a system, individuals under the program would be treated equally, after implementation of a similar system in Thailand, disparities in oral health care continued based on socioeconomic status. Basically, those that are for a government-provided universal health care program because they believe they will receive quality health care at a low price are sorely mistaken. Higher-income individuals will be able to receive better health care by paying past what the government pays for an individual to receive care under such a system as will government officials and those with connections to health care professionals due to their status (Yang, Wu, & Fan, 2009).
Arguably the most consequential result of the implementation of a government-provided universal health care coverage system will be the increase of the federal deficit and taxes. Obviously, implementing such a program will increase the federal deficit; however, the amount the federal deficit will increase is uncertain. When the Medicare Act of 1965 was first put into effect, no one could have predicted how much the cost of the program would soar throughout the succeeding decades. When adjusted for inflation, as of 2000, annual Medicare costs had increased over 650% since the program’s implementation. Medicare cost the government only $7.7 billion in 1970; in 2000, the costs of the program exceeded $224 billion. A Congressional Budget Office report predicted a 31-fold increase from 1990 to 2020 in Medicare expenditures – “a jump from $101 billion to more than $3 trillion” (O’Brien, 1990). With the government already deep in debt, creating programs we cannot afford will place us into inescapable debt for, if not decades, centuries. In order to escape this debt and pay for a government-provided universal health care coverage system, taxes will undoubtedly increase. As mentioned earlier in this essay, “free” is a relative term; as long as Americans are paying taxes, we, the people, will be sponsoring government-provided health care coverage. Not only will health care quality lessen under such a system, but also, citizens will be paying higher taxes than ever in order to pay for low-quality health care. In 2005, a $922 tax was tacked onto insurance premium costs for the insured in order to cover health care costs of the uninsured (Timiraos, 2007). Imagine if the number of uninsured individuals, 45 million, increased to include an entire nation. The taxes to account for a government-provided universal health care system would be astronomical. And with the loss of jobs in the health insurance sector, fewer individuals would be able to pay these taxes. “Just wait when they make health care for free, then you’ll see how expensive it becomes” (Rudy Giuliani as cited in Timiraos, 2007). In addition to taking money from the Bush administration tax cuts, this program would divert funds from government budgets (Freudenheim, 2003), which would cause funding for other programs to be cut (Liebow, 2007).
While many argue that health insurance is a right, it is only another excuse for the government to place its mark on another poorly implemented program. Surprisingly, not all Americans want health insurance; I have personally stumbled across these people who would rather pay out-of-pocket for all of their medical expenses, and constitutionally, there is no reason why they should be forced to purchase coverage or pay for the coverage of others. Also, why should America ruin its reputation of providing great health care over the argument that such health care is a right? Obviously, thousands flocking to this country each year for medical care should be proof enough that the current system does provide good health care. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The current insurance sector is a huge producer of revenue for the country, and its destruction will only bear negative results. “If recent history—both home and abroad—has taught us anything at all, it is that large, bureaucratically organized, carefully planned ‘solutions’ to economic problems, like health care, do not work very well” (O’Brien, 1990)
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