Bernie Sanders, AOC, Andrew Yang, and even Joe Biden, who is soon to be president of the United States, all have one thing in common. They all support universal healthcare, achieved through socialized medicine. But what does that mean? Are universal healthcare and socialized medicine good ideas? Will they truly solve the issues within our healthcare system?
Let's begin by establishing what these terms mean. Universal healthcare systems are systems that ensure healthcare will be available to all citizens without financial hardship. Socialized medicine comes into play when universal healthcare is implemented by bringing all aspects of the healthcare system under government control. With socialized medicine, the government directly provides its citizens with hospitals, doctors, and payments for their services.
The UK's healthcare system would be firmly classified as socialized, while Canadian healthcare is more loosely affiliated with the term "socialized" since there are still private providers of healthcare in the country. Both have universal healthcare. Citizens do not pay a bill after a trip to the hospital. But one system is slightly more socialized than the other.
This all sounds great in theory. After all, no one wants to break their arm, only to find that they have a hospital bill due for thousands of dollars. Universal healthcare does away with this. The government simply picks up the check for you. Now obviously, this money has to come from somewhere, and the biggest opponents of universal healthcare are against it due to the simple fact that universal healthcare would raise taxes drastically. Not just on the rich, but on everyone. Though the rich already pay far more than they should.
Most advocates of universal healthcare and socialized medicine point to Canada and the United Kingdom as perfect examples of what they want to implement in the United States because they believe that these countries have eliminated the underlying problem of our current system - high healthcare costs.
Though citizens in Canada or the UK don't pay bills when they pick up their prescription (when they can get a prescription), they do pay for it in their higher taxes, but there is more to it than taxes alone. When socialized medicine comes into play, there begins to be a whole host of new problems. The primary problem being - government control. In both universal healthcare and socialized medicine, the government is the authority that decides whether or not you truly need a certain treatment or prescription.
Many of us are likely on some rather poor healthcare plans right now. Isn't it frustrating when your doctor prescribes a certain treatment for you, but your healthcare provider decides that your ailment is not vital to your well-being, and decides not to cover your treatment? This leads to you having to cover the entirety of the bill, and it can get quite expensive. Now, imagine this on the national level. In Canada or the United Kingdom, as an individual seeking treatment for any ailment, you must first seek the approval of the government. Without this approval, you will likely face a complete lack of funding, or in the case of socialized healthcare, a total inability to seek treatment.
Since healthcare is such an expensive industry, when governments take on this huge burden, they find that even with the increased taxes, they don't have the funding to get treatment for everyone. Due to this, they put off certain procedures, and prioritize others. Wait times for "non-essential" procedures like knee and hip replacement surgeries can become several months long, and in some cases, individuals who have a low chance of surviving from serious car crashes, strange illnesses, or cancer are simply denied treatment, because there are people out there who also need the treatment, but have a better chance of surviving.
There was a prime example of this in the UK, though it is not the only one. There was a two-year-old boy who had a strange, terminal degenerative neurological condition. This condition led him to require life support if he ever had a chance of surviving. The government-owned hospital withdrew the child's life-support against the parent's wishes, on the grounds that treatment was unlikely to result in the child's survival. He died shortly after. Read more about this tragedy here.
People on long wait lists, or seeking treatment that their government won't provide, are often forced to come to the United States to receive these treatments. This is because the United States' system promotes an individual's right to make a decision that is in the best interest of themselves. Can you live without a hip replacement? Yes. Is it painful? Also yes. In the U.S., you decide whether or not you need a hip replacement, not the government.
Our system has its flaws, but the fact that people come to our country to take advantage of the system we have in place is a testament to the superiority of that system. No other country in the world values the freedom to make your own decisions and to choose your own path, more than the United States. Universal healthcare and, by extension, socialized healthcare, go against those values. That is the problem with socialized healthcare, and it is a problem that can not be overcome.
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A young boy is denied life support in the UK: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/4/27/17286168/alfie-evans-toddler-uk-explained
Nation Review's take on British and Canadian healthcare: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/06/03/socialized-medicine-is-bad-for-your-health/
Forbes argument in favor of socialized healthcare: https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2018/11/21/what-socialized-medicine-would-mean-for-your-health/?sh=28eff1206e9a
The Foundation For Economic Education's rebuttal of socialized healthcare: https://fee.org/articles/17-arguments-against-socialized-medicine/