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Obstacles Delaying Universal Coverage in the United States

, Obstacles Delaying Universal Coverage in the United States

Universal coverage refers to a social health insurance system in which healthcare funds are disbursed from a reservoir of taxpayer revenue. What this means for the average citizen is that many types of hospital procedures (even advanced surgeries and treatments), pharmaceutical drugs, physical therapy, and other types of medical costs are covered with very minimal charges to individual citizens. Typically, revenue for universal healthcare coverage is collected via income tax. It is interesting to note that 32 of 33 of the industrialized nations presently have some form of universal coverage in place for their citizens, with the United States being the lone exception.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (also known as Obama Care or the ACA) was passed in order to address some of these problems. Under the Affordable Care Act, small business owners with 50 or more full-time employees must provide some form of health insurance for their full-time staff, or face a substantial financial penalty. The ACA also established several tiers of government-subsidized public insurance for purchase by the public. Individual citizens who want to opt out of coverage must also pay a financial penalty ($95 or 1% of their income in 2014, whichever is greater). Though the Affordable Care Act is set to expand health insurance options for tens of millions of citizens nationwide, it has come under fire for offering high deductibles for basic plans, as well as pricing premium insurance plans beyond the reach of many American families. Many opponents cite this as proof of the law not going far enough, and instead advocate for the creation of a true universal coverage system.

The legal and historical precedent for such a system is already in place: Medicare is a socialized form of health insurance available to all US citizens over the age of 65. Proponents of a universal coverage system claim that the methods used in Medicare could be expanded to cover all American citizens regardless of income or age. Opponents cite the problems with Medicare, such as its failure to address the rapidly increasing costs brought on by a disproportionate segment of the population (baby boomers) reaching retirement age who are seeking expensive end-of-life care. While these are valid concerns, there are also studies that show a universal coverage system would actually reduce the cost of healthcare delivery in the United States.

Conclusion:
These studies cite the leverage gained by national governments, which, under universal coverage, award national contracts for certain medical products (artificial hips, for example). Private medical manufacturers compete intensely to supply these products, which provide continuous incentive for private medical manufacturers to keep their products safe, effective and affordable in hopes of winning a bid for a national contract. This leverage might be enough to sway public opinion (and private health insurance companies) toward establishing a true universal coverage system.

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