A knowledge gathering initiative, aimed at collecting information and ideas on effective universal healthcare system was launched on April 26, 2016, through a partnership effort between Harvard Global Health Institute and the BMJ.
United Nations Declaration of December 10, 1948, supports the idea of everyone having a right to a proper standard of living and well-being for themselves and their families, including medical care.
Initiative On Universal Healthcare
Universal health coverage entails that everyone should have access to health services despite their status or inability to pay for it, along with protections against financially catastrophic events due to illness.
The initiative pointed out that how the world is at a ‘critical juncture in global health’, and acknowledged the significance of universal healthcare system that provides services to everyone in need, without bankrupting them. The project also highlighted the failures and shortfalls that have plagued the cause as of yet.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) explained how the downfalls in the path of paving strong foundations for universal healthcare services are due to a ‘vast gap’, primarily because of ineffective models for healthcare delivery and scarcity of knowledge on the subject.
Unique requirements, different paths, and the knowledge of how to effectively deliver services that are known to work in the past, are needed to achieve universal health coverage, according to BMJ.
The Journal reiterated its commitment to further the knowledge on the subject and sent an open invitation for everyone to submit original research papers, opinion pieces, and analysis reports. The themes highlighted for the venture include:
- Initiatives to improve the effectiveness of health services being provided to middle and low income countries
- Detailed investigations of different financing schemes for providing universal coverage including comparative analysis reports
- Examination of intentional and unintentional consequences of policy changes and interventions, at different organizational levels
- Ideas and new approaches on increasing the scale and broadening the coverage of delivery strategies for universal care
- Thoughts and proposals on how to increase accountability of the personnel managing the health services through legal maneuvers
- Ideas on measurement strategies for problematical delivery settings
The editorial in BMJ, also highlighted the importance of financial, administrative, legal, regulatory and political aspects involved in the enactment of a complex system like universal healthcare, along with the gap in the relevant information which could be critical while making such decisions.
World Health Organization (WHO) in World Health Report 2013 has also acknowledged the role of research for developing technology, systems, and services needed to achieve universal health and recognized that the ‘methodical approach to formulating and answering questions is not a luxury but a necessity’ for solving the riddle of universal care.
The same report has estimated that nearly 150 million people worldwide experience a ‘catastrophic health event’ each year due to out of pocket payment for healthcare services.
Cicconi and Strug, in a paper available through Stanford’s Ethics of Development in a Global Environment (EDGE), emphasized the same principle for America to achieve a more equitable healthcare system, ‘The US clearly needs to take a look at the facts and figures of itself and other countries and ask itself what must be done to improve the health status of its citizens and decrease costs.’
The authors also advized that people should look beyond individualistic values and employer mandated insurance in United States, and explore the actual benefits universal care can offer.
A Commonwealth Fund report ranks US worst among the eleven wealthiest countries in the world in terms of healthcare ‘efficiency, equity and outcomes’, despite having the most expensive healthcare system in the world with annual spending of $3.8 trillion.
According to the same report, the situation is as such due to deficiencies in access to primary care, inequities in the healthcare coverage and the inefficiency of health services.
United States is the only developed country without universal healthcare for its citizens and relies largely on a system of health insurance. Data from National Coalition on Health Care reveals that currently more than 45 million citizens in US do not have health insurance.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or ObamaCare was based on the idea of covering maximum number of citizens by providing subsidized health insurance to people who make upwards of 138 percent of the poverty line and expanding Medicaid to cover all others who fell below.
A Supreme Court decision of 2012 upholding ObamaCare gave the states autonomy to choose whether they want to expand Medicaid or not, despite federal funding of 100 to 90 percent for the initial years. Some 20 states rejected the expansion leaving 3.1 million people uncovered.
Right now, the number one reason of filing for bankruptcy in United States is the medical expenses.