The Best Things in Life Are Free — The Road to Universal Health Care

We all agree that health is the most important thing in the world and yet so many times I have heard of and read about the following debate “Is healthcare a right or a privilege?” especially in the American press. I am going to try to not even address this “question” in my article below. Asking if healthcare is a right is the same as asking if LIFE is a right. I would say this: life IS a right and we are all privileged to be living it. Health is a right and we SHOULD be all privileged to be granted its f r e e, or at least affordable care.

To start off, here are some stats provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

  • At least half of the world’s population still does not have full coverage of essential health services.
  • About 100 million people are still being pushed into extreme poverty (defined as living on 1.90 USD or less a day) because they have to pay for health care.
  • Over 800 million people (almost 12% of the world’s population) spent at least 10% of their household budgets to pay for health care.

The current lack of universal health care is not only pushing people from lower income families into poverty and into the development of life threatening health conditions, but it is also exposing richer individuals face financial hardship in the event of severe or long-term illness.

What can our governments do?

The sheer cost of providing quality health care makes universal health care a large expense for governments since it is funded by general income taxes or payroll taxes. Countries would need to work with the private sector to cut healthcare costs and expand quality care.

Providing effective universal health coverage systems requires countries to develop new models of healthcare delivery and financing to adapt to changing needs, such as investment in primary care. An effective primary care combined with a broader network of social services is beneficial for a number of factors: it opens doors for additional nursing staff and boosts economy, while also preventing long-term health complications which can be detected and treated early on.

Let’s talk about the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) for a moment, even though it has its own problems that we tend to complain about extensively: long wait periods, stretched resources, underpaid doctors, etc.

In the U.K., both employees and employers contribute to the cost of health insurance, and it’s based on what an employee earns. According to the British government, a typical employee making £52,000 ($67,000) a year would pay in about £4,700 ($6,200) of health insurance annually and the employer would contribute about £7,200 ($9,500). However, the U.K. government picks up the tab for children, dependents and people out of work. NHS might not be the most ideal healthcare in the world or the best for the future, but what I would point out here is the looking after children and the currently unemployed. Imagine struggling to find a job, AND being sick without access to medication at the same time?

Good health and looked after population is more productive therefore it aids the economy.

Good health is a critical national asset. As such, it has to be invested in. It has been shown in a study by the consultancy firm KPMG that for middle income countries which have implemented national health insurance scheme or Universal Health Care, benefits come from a healthier population. Increasing the average life expectancy by one year could potentially increase the country’s GDP per capita by 4 percent.

How can the use of technology help us achieve afordable Universal Health Care sooner?

Telehealth is helping eliminate waiting times and reducing transportation costs, but it is also playing an essential role in improving access to care for patients in emerging countries and rural locations.

Like Uber, but for blood.

Hundreds of drones started delivering life-saving vaccines, blood and medicines to patients in Ghana this April in the largest scheme of its kind, the global vaccine alliance GAVI said on Wednesday for Africa News.

Medics will place orders by text message when supplies run dry, said GAVI’s Chief Executive Seth Berkley. The company’s engineers include aerospace veterans from SpaceX and Nasa.

Drones will then fly in from four distribution centres, hover over health posts and drop deliveries using tiny parachutes. Up to 12 routine and emergency vaccines will be available, including shots for yellow fever, polio, measles, meningitis and tetanus, as well as 148 blood products and other critical medicines. The drones fly autonomously and can carry up to 1.8 kilograms of cargo, GAVI said.

Brave and flying initiatives like this are not only helpingthose in need, but they are also setting new milestones for tech entrepreneurs trying to change the world.

AI is another tech ally that playes a huge part in changing the way patients can be treated by providing personalised treatment plans and has great potential to improve patient outcomes and the efficiency of care delivery.

To enable this, however, there needs to be investment in upskilling healthcare professionals to adapt to new technologies and discoveries, as well as an imporevement in the way we train medical students.

The WHO estimates that by 2035 there will be a global deficit of about 12.9 million skilled health professionals — that is, midwives, nurses and physicians. Some countries don’t even have their own medical schools with which to train healthcare professionals, so there is a real need for these technologies to bridge the gap.

Refugees and undocumented immigrants are not likely to access universal health care.

There are millions refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, returnees, and other migrant populations, but is rather embarrassing to make a separate point on refugees’ universal health plan and separate them from the rest of the citizens in the world. When we speak about Health Care for ALL, doesn’t all mean ALL? Like all human beings.

Expanding access to affordable, quality healthcare to refugees will require continued partnership at the community, national, regional, and global levels. To achieve Universal Health Coverage globally, states must prioritize and address the health challenges for the most vulnerable populations, including refugees, to ensure no one is left behind.

Despite any cons, health care should be accessible to all. Now.

While I was doing some research on this subject, I came across an article stating the Pros and Cons of a universal health care, and while some of the Cons are without doubt making a good point, such as universal health care leading to the potential increase of taxes, increase of debt, lower quality of screenings and treatments, and so on. All of these must be addressed and taken into an account and eventually overcome, I also found myself shocked once again seeing the following:

“A right to health care could save lives” vs “A right to health care could increase the wait time for medical services.” This is how I read that: “Is it worth sacrificing someone’s life so we don’t have to wait an extra half hour for a GP appointment?” I’ll leave this right there.

Writer. Journalist.

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