Universal health care in the US and elsewhere

Trying to come up with a health care system in the US that takes care of the health of everyone without costing an arm and a leg has been difficult. Many people are resistant to government meddling in what they see as a free-market business enterprise, while others insist that government intervention is needed in order to address what they see as a market failure that leaves many people without access to life-saving/extending treatments.

I assume every country had a time in its history before which the government was not involved in the health care business, but some countries have made the transition to some form of universal healthcare. How is it that these countries were able to make the leap, and the US has not? Will we here in the US ever get there, or are business interests just too powerful here?

Doctors went crazy — the non-socialist already ones, which was most — at the birth of the NHS in 1948.

Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health who masterminded the creation simply said: “I stuffed their mouths with gold.

well yeah, they have been for 50 years. It’s not really ‘interests’ it’s rank bribery of Congress combined with corporate media propaganda. Text book stuff that had the population totally conned.

I still maintain the slow realise came when the Internet opened up the USA people to outside influences. There must have been huge debates on here, for example, back to the Millennium - first off people defending the system against socialised medicine and then slowing realising the con … how about those impassioned Town Hall meetings around Obamacare. So many wrapped in the flag and going against the interest of themselves and loved ones.

Obama and the internet did it once. It’ll be like a wave, making progress, falling back. In the end, the people will prevail.

Speaking of the UK specifically, after WWII there was a very strong national sense that We Should Take Care of People. There were thousands if not millions of injured soldiers returning, widows and orphans left to fend for themselves, and so forth. The economy was also mostly wrecked, with massive foreign debt and basically everything having been turned over to war production or blown up.

Among the ruling classes there was probably a bit of fear that the masses might rise up a la Germany or Russia, too.

In any event, there was remarkably broad agreement that Britain needed a stronger welfare state and medical care for all, hence the democratic socialist model that characterized British economic planning from 1950 to 1973 or so. It’s called the post-war consensus.

How about a brief history of healthcare in the US?

This is where it gets more interesting and kind of answers your question:

Anyway, that was a huge wall of text I’m sure. Bottom line…it’s more complicated than ‘corporations are evil’ and ‘Republicans hate healthcare and think it’s all socialist’. We’ve had healthcare for a long, long time, it’s been tweaked as times changed, the public has grown used to it the way it is and are on the fence about large systemic change, and it’s worked just well enough for just enough people that it hasn’t become an overriding priority for most working class Americans to get riled enough about it to push for change. A lot of countries that did adopt more progressive systems did so for other, internal reasons…and had political systems that were very different than ours and allowed them to push through stuff you couldn’t really do here, especially in the past.

Our healthcare system reached a crisis stage a long time ago. because companies supplied healthcare to their workers and Medicare supplied healthcare to seniors and those on disability nobody really cared enough to do anything about it. The big companies are no longer willing to keep paying and Medicare is running out of money. I am a conservative but see no other options besides socialized medicine. The incentive to run the bill up has to disappear.

I think the universal element is the key, and that it’s about culture not politics.

Countries that held out for single payer did so because their cultures valued inclusiveness much higher. There are always political divisions with any broad widesweeping policy, in any country. Financial concerns, and capitalism issues to be addressed. But if culturally all sides value inclusivity and insist upon it then you get a system that reflects that.

It was, but it was a very interesting/informative wall of text; thanks for building it. :slight_smile:

the way forward is state by state - like Canada and it’s provinces. it will work in California and eventually it will work everywhere.

hopefully before I get a lot older. :frowning:

UHC in Canada required significant federal backing despite some success with more limited systems in a couple of provinces.

A state-by-state system will simply incentivize those with high healthcare requirements to move to states with generous benefits.

Or demand change in their own states.

Incentives don’t mean it will happen to a degree worth abandoning the project. Governments often try purposely to set up incentives without intended behaviour changes happening. No reason to assume an unintended incentive will prove disastrous.

‘countries’ don’t hold out. Political parties make an offer to the people at election time - this is how we propose to spend the taxation. Example: 1945 UK election Winston Churchill didn’t offer UHC and he lost in a landslide.

Most countries both main parties offered variations on the theme. The USA is so rigged none did.

All parties were committed to some sort of national health service along with implementation of the rest of the Beveridge Report, though none gave, by today’s standards, any clear details as to exactly how they would do it. His wartime coalition had done some preliminary planning work, but hadn’t got very far (it was one of his supporters that first suggested that all GPs should be salaried employees of local government, which went down like the proverbial, whereas Labour settled in the end for their being independent contractors).

His party lost the 1945 election because they were identified with the general social and economic conditions of the 1930s and were thought mostly out of touch with the widespread desire for radical change; and he personally made it worse by opening the campaign with a claim that Labour’s plans (his wartime coalition colleagues, note) meant the introduction of some sort of Gestapo.


The US spends 17-18% of GDP on health care. The system is a nightmare with thousands of insurance company bureaucracies to deal with, outrageous prescription drug prices, all kinds of co-pays and deductibles, insecurity, hassles, tens of millions without insurance, medical-related personal bankruptcies, and an enormous burden on individuals and employers to keep up with the ever increasing costs and hassles in dealing with the system.

Meanwhile, other countries spend about 10% of GDP and have universal health care akin to the Medicare for All single payer system proposed for the US. This seems to me to be one of the biggest no-brainers of all time. Yet, it gets nowhere. You would think that EVERYONE except insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and the health care “industry” in general would be on board and there would be a irresistible tidal wave of support. Apparently not. How come?

Those you mention have better lobbyists and propagandists.

And because ordinary Americans are persuaded it is a far better position to be bankrupt and dying, keeping a noble independence, than to submit to the evil tyranny of the State.


The great irony is the USA is the only first world society in which life expectancy is declining - so you don’t even need death panels, just residency.

A friend of mine is a dentist. He had an office staff of four people just to deal with insurance billing. He decided to concentrate on on Medicare/Medicaid. Now he has one billing person since they only have to deal with a single form and coding, and say what you will about the government, they pay their bills. Also, since he’s apparently the only dentist in his state who accepts Medicare patients, he has more work that he can handle. Also, the work is a whole lot more rewarding - relieving pain, improving quality of life and even making people employable. And, since his office costs are so much lower, he’s making more money.

The general public aren’t the only ones who have been sold a bill of goods and have been convinced to vote against their own self-interest.