When I state universal healthcare is best, let me clarify what I mean by “best”.
I am speaking in medical outcome and ethical terms. When I say “best”, I mean that universal healthcare offers the best medical outcome for the largest number of people at the most reasonable cost.
There is no actual debate on this conclusion unless you prefer entities that sabotage a system for personal gain. Capitalists that try to torpedo such a system for profit. Malevolent system administrators that go against evidence based medical criteria with the explicit purpose of making that system fail. Each of these do so at the cost of human suffering and life.
Of course, we are having this discussion in a country that has left millions without medical care, millions bankrupt in an attempt to afford care. Millions with permanent disability or dead for the sake of profit. As a nurse for decades, I find that situation unacceptable.
Most Progressives know that a recent Koch-funded (Libertarian) study found that universal healthcare would save consumers over $2 Trillion over 10 years. Yet that study does not bother to touch on any of the points I raise in this article, all of which mean the actual amount saved would be far greater.
In part one, I detailed how universal healthcare is the most cost effective system by eliminating extraneous costs that have nothing to do with actual delivery of medical care. But it goes beyond that. Universal healthcare provides societal and economic benefits inside and outside the medical system which improve the economy as a whole. Here are only some of the benefits universal healthcare offers to the economy.
1- Increased disposable income. Because universal healthcare costs less than our current system, it results in more money left in the pocket of the average citizen. For most people, that money will be spent in the general economy. The economy operates on money being spent. That is how jobs are created. I’ve detailed before how money spent at a grocery store supports numerous jobs such as cashier, manager, maintenance, truck drivers, farmers, ranchers, food processors, dock workers. So the same holds true here.
2- Living wage jobs. Expanded access to healthcare would mean people using that access. The end result would be an increased need for doctors, PA’s, nurse practitioners, nurses, CNA’s. Those are obvious but it goes beyond those jobs. You would need more radiologists, radiology techs, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, dietitians, psychologists/psychiatrists/therapists, pharmacists/pharmacy technicians, medical equipment supply specialists, medical equipment manufacturing engineers, medical waste specialists.. The list goes on.
3- MORE disposable income. With all the jobs listed above making a living wage, that means a considerable number of professionals with disposable income. Most of that income would be spent in the general economy, buying food, clothing, cars, homes, eating at restaurants. At each stage of consumerism, jobs are maintained and created. These workers pay taxes which are (ideally) spent supporting schools, libraries, maintaining roads, etc, in each case maintaining if not creating more jobs, more consumers, more taxpayers.
4- Decreased bankruptcies. Millions of Americans per year declare bankruptcy due to medical bills. With universal healthcare, this would be almost if not completely eradicated. The result would be the preservation of credit ratings for responsible people. Which would prevent them from falling prey later to predatory lending practices by payday and high interest lenders, being denied credit, mortgages, etc. Businesses, especially smaller businesses, lose money to bankruptcies every year, causing a cascade effect leading to those small businesses closing or declaring bankruptcy themselves. This would slow that process considerably.
5- Early detection of chronic illnesses. Millions of Americans have chronic illnesses which are only diagnosed when they become advanced or even critical because they cannot afford routine care which would detect those conditions at a much earlier stage. More of these conditions would be detected before they become severe to critical. In many cases this would prevent catastrophic illness. Meaning they would live longer, healthier, happier lives. Not to mention it is far less costly to provide preventive care than corrective to critical care. The cost of one ICU stay for one patient would pay for insulin and testing supplies for hundreds of diabetics for a year. This is NOT an exaggeration of any kind.
6- Stress/anxiety/depression. Medical issues alone can cause stress, anxiety and depression. It doesn’t matter if the illness is chronic or acute. In addition, medical bills can cause the same emotional issues. Combine the two sources of emotional distress and the effects can be devastating. Each one alone can affect self esteem, how one sees themselves. It is no personal failure when one cannot afford medical care, medications, hospital care, etc yet in our society today it is made to seem (by some) to be a personal failure as a human being when you are unable to afford these things. It becomes an issue which many people are too ashamed to discuss openly with friends and family members. Look at the cost of medical care today and it is no wonder so many struggle with the bills involved, putting off care until it can no longer be put off. We live in a country where a series was successful where a teacher becomes a meth dealer simply because of his medical bills and fear for his family’s welfare because of that. The series would not have been successful if it had been a scenario which was less realistic.
7- Health conditions related to stress/anxiety/depression. Always remember that chronic negative emotions can cause physical health complications of their own. High blood pressure, ulcers, obesity, malnutrition, increased tendency to self medicate with alcohol or drugs, gastric disorders, etc. By instituting a system where these negative emotions are lessened, we prevent many of the physical complications which increase the cost of health care. For those who already have these medical issues, stress makes them worse and harder to control. There is no way to truly predict just how much money this would save in the long term but my personal guess (as an experienced cardiac and neurological care nurse) is that the amount would be highly significant.
Now, this list is probably incomplete and could well be added to. However, these are aspects I have not personally seen/heard anyone else discussing to date. Which sucks, considering we’ve had at least two years of discussion about the issue. Just keep watching my page for views you don’t find in other places.
Of course there would be some negative effects involved. I consider all of those ethical concerns and will cover that in part III of this series, coming soon. Long as I don’t get bumped off by some insurance agent before I write it.