Monday, June 08, 2009

Universal Health Care - Been There, Done That

[Welcome American Issues Project readers!]

We are pleased to offer this first hand account of universal health care courtesy of one of our readers.

As an Italian citizen, I have experienced the “Utopia” of universal health care. It is a noble and ethically good idea, the problem is that it simply does not work. I will explain briefly what I am talking about:
First, it is not free; every month a variable sum (proportional to salary) of money is automatically taken by the government out of your paycheck, thus you have no control on that money, you have no freedom to choose whether to have health care coverage or not, plus, the more money you make, the more you pay, which in terms of health care is not fair nor directly linked to your personal health status or habits.

Second, but no less significant, is that even when you go to a hospital for treatment, it is overcrowded, understaffed, mostly old buildings and infrastructure, with not enough physicians nor resources. For example, you might have to wait several months to get a sonogram or an MRI. If a surgical procedure is needed, you are put on a waiting list in which you could be called months later at any time, any day to have the procedure.

Third, if you cannot afford private care, after going through the painful process of public infrastructure, you still pay a co-pay according to the treatment you receive.
In addition, I feel obliged to throw in a few more considerations:

Private health care guarantees competition between doctors and medical institutions which contributes to a higher level of care and professionalism stimulated, obviously, by the monetary gain. This does not apply to public structures that often cannot afford to pay doctor’s adequate wages, lowering the quality of medical service and almost eliminating research projects.
The psychological “comfort” of having “paid-by-the-government” health care, lowers the awareness and responsibilities that people have towards their own health, making it easier for them to rely on future care instead of making the best lifestyle choices to stay healthy and in shape.

Having lived under both systems, I appreciate the freedom of choice that is given to me by the private health care system.
Thanks to Cristina Folchitto for penning this blogpost, and to Nick Perry for passing it along.
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