Nations around the globe have made universal health care (UHC) an aim, but its realization remains far away even in wealthy and industrialized nations such as the US. Indeed, COVID-19’s widespread reach highlighted flaws in America’s health care system.

Universal health coverage may seem straightforward – everyone should have access to preventive and treatment services without incurring out-of-pocket payments – yet realizing this goal can be more complex than expected. Ensuring people do not face financial risk or fall into debt when seeking care is also vitally important as well as addressing inequities in access and monitoring and reporting on disadvantaged populations.

Most post-industrialized countries now provide some form of universal healthcare coverage, but many people lack full coverage due to costs and accessibility barriers. This poses a problem as poor health and inadequate medical treatment can have serious repercussions – such as premature deaths, disability and chronic conditions that significantly lower economic productivity.

Some countries require or mandate that citizens purchase private health insurance, while others have adopted social insurance models in which employers and employees contribute to a pool that funds health care services for everyone. Other nations use combinations of these models – financing being of paramount importance when striving toward universal coverage.

Health insurance in the US is typically provided through employer-sponsored plans or individual market insurance that individuals purchase either individually or through exchanges. Some plans provide high levels of coverage capable of covering even costly medical care, while other plans limit how much of it they cover and may include specific exclusions.

Reasons exist as to why the United States doesn’t provide universal health care coverage; one being its highly diverse population with multiple cultural identities and religious beliefs as well as different socioeconomic levels. Furthermore, its wide geographic spread includes climate conditions that influence health in different ways.

No matter its challenges, the United States can move toward universal health coverage. Our large nation can support multiple models of care delivery; moreover, its citizens are willing to pay for it. Prior to choosing how best to fund a particular model, it is crucial that we carefully evaluate both its costs and benefits. A suitable option could bring us one step closer towards universal healthcare coverage, improving both citizens’ health and wellbeing while increasing economic productivity. Furthermore, policies which address the social determinants of health must also be supported to promote global commitment to improving health and well-being. Countries need to invest in their strongest asset: human capital if they wish to realize economic success through increased productivity. Without healthy, educated people economies cannot grow.

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