Universal Healthcare: A Moral Responsibility

34 countries make up the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) a group of countries dedicated to global development, almost all of which have a high Human Development Index and are high-income economies. Of these countries Mexico, Chile, and the US are the only countries where less than half of spending on healthcare is publicly financed (OECD).

Countries with Universal Healthcare

Green represents countries with universal healthcare; grey represents countries without universal healthcare (Fisher)

Mexico and Chile have two of the lowest three GDPpc (gross domestic product per capita) adjusted for purchasing power in the OECD with $17,019 and $21,486 respectively (OECD). The US is clearly an outlier being one of the only developed countries without universal healthcare and by far the richest without it. It is well within the ability of the United States to provide universal healthcare. People can argue about the economic pros and cons of universal healthcare, but at its core, the lack of healthcare provided to everyone in the US is a moral issue. “While other countries have declared health care to be a basic right, the United States treats health care as a privilege, only available to those who can afford it” (Chua).

According to Lawrence Gostin, a government “is compelled by its role as the elected representative of the community to act affirmatively to promote the health of the people” yet “cannot unduly invade individuals’ rights in the name of the communal good” (11). This seems paradoxical, but a government must consider whether the benefits of promoting the health of its people outweigh and justify the invasion of the individuals’ rights. Considering the wealth of the US (GDPpc = $51,689), the impact on each individual would be relatively little with a small portion of people’s paychecks being diverted specifically for healthcare as opposed to the more generic taxes where it is not immediately clear where the funds are going. And the impact would be dramatic. Every year 18,000 excess deaths occur among the uninsured under the age of 65 (Institute of Medicine) and many more live with aliments that could be relatively easily treated or crippling debt due to necessary healthcare costs. The problems from the United States’ lack of universal healthcare falls, like many societal harms, disproportionally on minority groups. Hispanics are two to three times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites (Institute of Medicine). Viewing healthcare as a privileged also perpetuated the cycle of poverty which so many Americans are trapped in.

The United States has a moral obligation to provide universal healthcare to its citizens. There is “No ethical principle can eliminate the fact that individual interests must sometimes yield to collective needs” (Childress) and the case of universal healthcare is a time where the rights of the individuals must be infringed upon in order to provide for the general population.


Work Cited

Childress, James E. “Public Health Ethics: Mapping the Terrain.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics (2002): 170-178.

Chua, Kao-Ping. “The Case for Universal Health Care.” 2005. American Medical Student Association. 16 March 2014.

Fisher, Max. Here’s a Map of the Countries That Provide Universal Health Care (America’s Still Not on It). 28 June 2012. 16 March 2014.

Gostin, Lawrence. Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restaint. University of California Press, 2008.

Institute of Medicine. Care Without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late. National Academies Press, 2002.

OECD. “Gross Domestic Product.” 2013. OECD. 16 March 2014.

OECD. “OECD Health Data 2013: How does the United States Compare.” 2013. OECD. 16 March 2014.

17 thoughts on “Universal Healthcare: A Moral Responsibility

  1. Many good points, I love this topic. Universal health care is supported by many people in the United States, including myself. I think this is evident by the passing of the Affordable Care Act. Though it is not perfect, and there is debate over whether Obama administration has been too lenient in some of its provisions, the bill is still a step in the right direction. However, the United States’ issues in healthcare are so deeply rooted that it requires more than laws passed regarding health insurance to fix them. Unfortunately this necessary change is nearly impossible at this point in time. Though there are people suffering from the current system, there are also a significant number of people that are benefiting from it. Large insurance and pharmaceutical interests profit from the way things currently operate. There are also many people unaffected by individuals of low and middle socio-economic classes, who believe insurance schemes like Medicare and Medicaid are sufficient in attempting to bridge the gap in distribution of care. (Starr 2011)
    Aside from individual and special interests, it is difficult to make change in the name of morality when there is genuine disagreement as to what is moral. Many conservatives disagree with the notion of that it would be moral for the government to provide universal care. Health insurance was modeled after home and car insurance schemes which were established for use in the event of disaster or catastrophe. You wouldn’t ask your home owners insurance provider to replace the garage door, so you shouldn’t expect insurers to subsidize basic doctor’s visits, check-ups, and routine procedures. Individuals are responsible for ensuring their own care. Significant government involvement in health care is yet another sign of its increasing role in our lives. America was founded on the principle of individualism, our founders wary of a too-large federal government. One could argue that the U.S. government then has a moral and civic obligation to refuse universal health care.

    Works Cited:

    Starr, Paul. Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011. Print.

  2. I also agree with Alexis that the issue of universal healthcare in the U.S. is more much complicated that we think it is. People can argue all they want about moral responsibility and the right to health care, but morality isn’t the root of the problem. While there are some who really believe that health is an individual responsibility, I think there are still many people in the U.S. who may agree that the government has a moral responsibility of providing some type of protection to the health of the people. However, there may be disagreements as to how the government should take responsibility for that. For instance, people may disagree on the type of healthcare that should be provided to everyone. Furthermore, one of the reason that our country has had difficulty coming to an agreement about healthcare is due to the nature of our government system: political parties. Our government officials support certain things according to their political parties and what gets them reelected. Healthcare has become part of the political debate so now it’s not a matter what what is moral but which political party you belong in.

  3. There is something credible about numbers as the dollar amounts you cite, to be used as comparison to other countries. This is because when certain factors are controlled for, quantitative variables are then insightful into differences, and how heavy those differences themselves are. This applied, we see that Chua’s argument, “While other countries have declared health care to be a basic right, the United States treats health care as a privilege, only available to those who can afford it,” is hard to disagree with. Additionally, not only is it wrong that our country as a whole is behind the standard, but the promise made to its people fails its own moral standards, as you have pointed out, by disparities among class and race.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post because it brought up a lot of points that I learned about in my predictive health class. Though the US is one of the wealthiest countries in the nation and we spend so much money on health care, we are ranked among the bottom in terms of health quality. We actually spend more money on health care than China does on everything! I agree with you that we should have universal healthcare. While it is a moral responsibility, health should be a human right. Everyone deserves to be healthy and there needs to be a way to provide everyone with health care. However, I think that before we expand health care to everyone, we should first change how the medical system works. Rather than working like a factory, the medical system should actually focus on the patient and care for them as individuals rather than customers. Too much money is invested because people aren’t getting better, so more money is involved. Therefore, before we expand healthcare i think there needs to be some alterations to the medical system in general.

  5. I completely agree with the fact that the US should have universal health care, because access to good health should be a right. The fact that the US is the only country with a high GDPpc that does not have universal healthcare represents us poorly. It seems as if the US can afford universal healthcare since many less wealthy nations have already instigated this, so what are we waiting for?
    The reason why the US hesitates when the topic of universal healthcare comes up is due to costs and quality. Universal healthcare seems incredibly expensive, but research has shown that, “Canada spends about half as much per person on health care as we do in this country. And if we were willing to take Canada’s system and double the amount of funding, we would have not just better care than they have in Canada, but much, much better care than we have here in the United States” (Himmelstein). Since Canada has universal healthcare that costs such a small fraction of the US’s healthcare, some people assume it’s due to a lack of quality in Canada. This is not entirely true, because the quality of the service is no different, it’s just the length of the lines at medical centers that is not entirely ideal. I think the line length is worth the economic and national health-related benefits of universal health care. The fact that some people are denied that right seems wrong and as if it infers that only certain people are deserving of good health. Overall, I believe the US needs to take steps towards creating universal healthcare, because the benefits truly outweigh the costs.

  6. Human rights is entering the debate about universal health care. In the US and other nations there are discriminatory barriers that block and prevent accessibility to health services for many individuals. Therefore, the incorporation of human rights into public health practice can be a powerful tool for improving health and accessibility to treatment.
    This approach is necessary to handle come of the world’s most serious epidemics; these health challenges cannot be successful overcome without seeking out those who are most vulnerable or discriminated against in terms of health service. Thus, this human rights approach can help identify those marginalized community members, and then health programs, like universal health care, need to acknowledge their needs and offer appropriate and effective services. This approach will not only address issues of equality and justice, but this approach of health for all will stop the continuation of certain disease and epidemics; there is both a utilitarian and a moral call for addressing public health with human rights in mind.

  7. Having a good solid policy from a company that is reputable and has a good financial
    record will help guarantee that if you are unfortunate enough to need to file a
    claim against your policy you will be protected against catastrophic
    financial hardships. Whilst car insurance is a fact of life,
    high premiums are not. A quick and straightforward option to find very cheap car insurance
    (http://www.yourcarinsurance.org) is
    to do some comparison shopping.

  8. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to
    be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get
    irked while people consider worries that they just don’t know about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal.

    Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

    my weblog Deliabella and beaute md – s0.wp.com

  9. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m
    inspired! Extremely helpful information particularly the final section 🙂 I take care of such information much.
    I was seeking this certain info for a long time.
    Thanks and best of luck.

  10. Thanks for some other fantastic article.

    Where else may just anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect approach
    of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the search for such information.

  11. Thank you for every other wonderful post. Where else may anyone get that
    type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m
    at the search for such information.

  12. Universal “health care” is a farce on the same principles that socialism is a failed ideology – health care is really disease care. To properly evaluate whether providing health care services to everyone is a moral issue, we must also address whether food education is also a moral responsibility. There would be no need for disease care if people learned which foods contributed to chronic illness and which did not, because the vast majority of diseases that cost the most to treat are diet-related diseases. It is an unsustainable and immoral paradigm that says we are free to eat what we want, and then expect the consequences of our poor choices should be paid for by everyone else. A better scenario would be to make the food companies responsible to pay for chronic, diet-related disease care in the same way tobacco companies were forced to pay for their actions. We live in a cause-and-effect world, and if we aren’t going to require food companies to disclose the dangers of high glycemic, highly processed and toxic foods like cigarettes were required to disclose the dangers to carcinogens, then spend the money to educate people FIRST before pushing a universal disease care system on everyone, especially when the medical agencies are in bed with the food companies and big pharma. It’s a huge double standard and a food education revolution is what we need first.

Comments are closed.