There is has been a heated debate on whether universal healthcare should be available to all for free or not. In light of this, the question that has polarized people’s opinions is: Should universal healthcare be available to all regardless of their ability to pay in the same way that other services (such as education) are available to all for free? Universal healthcare implies that all communities and individuals can utilize all the requisite healthcare services while preventing exposing users from any financial hardships. This essay advances the argument that free universal healthcare is not necessary because it will create a shortage of health care providers; raise taxes; and increase the burden on healthcare providers.
One of the reasons against free universal healthcare is that it will create a shortage of healthcare staff. The introduction of free universal education will imply that many people will tend to seek healthcare services. The increased tendency to seek healthcare services will in turn call for more healthcare providers to address the healthcare needs of each and every patient. In addition, free universal healthcare will increase the frequency of hospital visits even for patients who could have received medications through chemists and pharmacies. Increased hospital visits will outweigh the available healthcare staff.
The other argument against the introduction free universal healthcare is that such move will compel the government to raise taxes levied on the taxpayers in order to generate funding for the healthcare system. Currently, the healthcare system is funded by the government and insurance companies. Introducing free universal healthcare will make most Americans to stop paying for their insurance premiums and thus forcing some of the insurance companies to stop their operations. As a result, the government will be almost solely responsible for funding public hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In order to achieve this, the government will raise the taxes levied on taxpayers in an attempt to generate additional funds to meet the increased demand for healthcare services.
Provision of free universal healthcare would worsen the current shortage of health care providers. It will worsen this situation because many people will be seeking healthcare services even for minor procedures that could have been treated outside the hospital. As Healey (2017) asserts, the United States is currently facing a nursing an acute shortage of nurses, with approximately “315,000 positions needing to be filled” (p. 43). This current shortage of nurses means that an increase in demand for healthcare services will compound the problem of nursing shortage in the country. Since free universal healthcare is more likely to increase the demand for healthcare services, it follows that the available nursing staff will not meet the demands of each and every patient. To make matters worse, the government has done little over the years to address the problem of nursing shortage. Even before the introduction of free universal healthcare, the problem of nursing shortage is expected to exacerbate in the future as the country is projected to have a shortage 1.2 million nurses by the year 2030 (Healey, 2017). Thus, it is unwise to provide free universal healthcare because it will worsen the situation further resulting in an imbalance between the demand for healthcare services and the available nursing staff. The imbalance will be created partly because some patients may tend to stay in the healthcare facilities for longer periods than usual because they will not incur out-of-pocket costs for the health services used. Overall, there is no need to provide free universal healthcare without first addressing the current nursing shortage.
The introduction of free healthcare services is also likely to raise the taxes levied on taxpayers. Blendon, Brodie, Benson, Altman and Bur (2006) assert that “the proportion of GDP devoted to health care grows larger with every year” (p. 623). Therefore, providing free universal healthcare would call for the government to increase its GDP spending on healthcare. It will imply that the government will have to raise taxes levied on the working population in order to provide free healthcare services. This tax increase will disproportionately affect the legal working population to the benefit of non-payers including illegal immigrants. According to Hai and See (2011), the problem of tax non-compliance prevails in the United States despite that no significant amounts of research has been undertaken in this area. This problem of tax non-compliance will contribute to elevated taxes for taxpayers in order to fund free universal healthcare system.
On the other, the proponents of free universal health system care argue that that such healthcare system would enhance the development of the economy because of improved heath of people. Indeed, free universal healthcare can improve people’s health conditions and thus preventing loss of working days due to illnesses. The system will facilitate people to access healthcare services at any healthcare facility irrespective of their economic status. Currently, healthcare services are expensive for a significant proportion of the population in the United States, especially the uninsured individuals. Despite the efforts by the government to enhance the affordability of healthcare through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a significant proportion of Americans are still uninsured because they cannot afford to pay premiums for the insurance coverage. The free universal healthcare proponents’ argument seems to be begged on the inability of some people to afford health care services. To them, free universal healthcare system would enhance the accessibility and of healthcare services and hence contributing to a healthy population that will work towards improving the country’s economy. Unhealthy individuals often lose valuable working days due to absenteeism from work while on their sick leave.
A superficial reader may find the argument by the proponents of free universal healthcare service to be credible. However, on a close scrutiny, the argument fails to acknowledge other factors that enhance the quality of healthcare delivery, and hence patient outcomes. One of these factors is the availability of adequate nursing staff to address the needs of all patients. Lack of adequate staff will compromise the quality of service delivery and ultimately patient outcomes. With the anticipated increase in the demand for healthcare services following the introduction of free universal healthcare, the available nursing staff will have a greater workload than their current workload. A survey conducted in 2014 by Vickie Milazzo Institute among nurses in the U.S. found that 3,300 of them overworked and stressed (Fischer, 2016). Stress and work overload can impact negatively on the nurses’ health and wellbeing and hence their ability to deliver high-quality healthcare services. The implication of this is that providing free universal healthcare without doing anything to increase the number of nurses will only increase the available nurses’ level of stress and workload.
In conclusion, free universal healthcare is not necessary because it will create a shortage of health care providers; raise taxes; and increase the burden on healthcare providers. Free universal healthcare system will result in an increase in demand for healthcare services and thus worsening the nursing shortage, which is currently experienced in the country. In addition, it will also increase the tax levied on tax payers and thus disproportionately affecting the tax payers’ income for the benefit on non-payers. Nevertheless, the argument that free universal healthcare system will contribute towards creating a healthy working population fails to acknowledge the negative impact on increased workload on the nursing staff, and their ability to deliver high-quality healthcare services. Therefore, the government should first address the current shortage of healthcare providers and device a mechanism of generating funds before implementing free universal healthcare.
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- Blendon, R. J., Brodie, M., Benson, J. M., Altman, D. E. & Bur, T. (2006). Americans’ view of healthcare costs, access, and quality. The Milbank Quarterly, 84(4), 623-657.
- Fischer, K. (2016). Nurses: Overworked and understaffed on the Frontlines. Healthline.
- Hai, O. T. & See, L. M. (2011). Intention of tax non-compliance-examine the gaps. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(7), 79-83.
- Healey, L. (2017). Schools, hospitals work to overcome nursing shortages with financial, educational incentives. Insight into Diversity, 88(4), 42-45.