Universal Healthcare: Too Good to Be True?

Columnist
School of Dentistry

If you’ve ever worked in a hospital, you’ve heard some doctors and hospital staff gripe about the implementation of Obamacare while others heatedly defend it. In contrast to America, some countries have free healthcare systems, but citizens are taxed for it and the quality of healthcare is often called into question.

Since the news often highlights how Obamacare is splitting our leaders along party lines, we wanted to hear more about the nuances of this issue from current and future healthcare providers. To start this conversation we asked, “Do you think everyone deserves access to free healthcare? Are the compromises worth the universal coverage?”

Some of our respondents believe in universal healthcare as a whole.

Micah Ahazie, a second year pharmacy student, says, “I believe that everyone deserves access to fundamental healthcare, because it is a terrible situation when quality medical care can only be accessed by those who can afford it. It is important, however, that the citizens contribute towards this goal in an equitable way — hence, the tax. However, there needs to be a high level of accountability for this system to be effective. This way, healthcare providers and medical centers know that they are held to a high standard of service with every single patient that they serve. Patients can also rest assured that they’re contributing towards the greater health of society.”

Similarly, a Registered Nurse in Hawaii who requested her name be withheld, says, “I would like to see access to free healthcare happen in my lifetime. Universal healthcare should be implemented in the United States at least on a trial basis, if not permanently. How can the status of healthcare coverage get any worse than it already is now? Even for those who have insurance, some are still unable to get the healthcare they need, expect, and hope for because they still can't afford procedures, office visits, medications, co-pays. Where I live, those without insurance who receive assistance sometimes are able to see specialists and travel is provided.

“If universal healthcare can make it so that anyone can get quality care and medical attention, then let's make it happen.”

Others are more skeptical.

An dental student who wished to remain anonymous said the issue may be more complicated than what it seems: “I think everyone deserves access to quality healthcare, but how feasible is it for our government to maintain adequate quality with limited funds? If the government proposes funding ‘fundamental’ healthcare, where is the line drawn? Would care be denied if a patient’s case became too complicated, or would the patient be forced to pay for anything deemed beyond the scope of ‘fundamental’? There are so many questions that still remain unanswered.

“The grass is always greener on the other side... there is no perfect system, and uprooting our current one could have unforeseen negative consequences.”

Interestingly, we found that individuals who have been exposed to both sides of the issue are less enthusiastic about universal healthcare.

An engineer who also asked to withhold his name dissented: “While many Americans romanticize universal healthcare coverage, few have actually experienced both sides of the issue. I used to live abroad in France and the reality is that a public system is not only inefficient, it’s also much poorer quality of care and the overall medical field becomes less innovative. I wish people would do real research on the difference in quality of care and hospital systems before falling for the allure of free medications and ‘short lines’ flaunted in documentaries or media.

“I’m extremely appreciative to have better options now that I live in the United States.”

Have a different opinion? Want to share your thoughts for the next installment? Please send us any comments, questions, or answers by emailing anna.nonaka@ucsf.edu, or engaging us through comments on our social media pages.

Answer our next ethical conundrum: Students often participate in international mission trips, inspired by their passion to help others. However, some argue that these efforts simply band-aid the situation and prevent real resolution. Do you believe mission trips can have long-term effects on communities, either negative or positive? Email us and share your thoughts.