Odds and Ends
23 5, 4:51am
No, the US unfortunately DOESN'T have universal health care for all citizens.
"Despite being among the top world economic powers, the US remains the sole industrialized nation in the world without universal health care coverage."
What you're talking about is universal emergency care - provided by a law called "Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act" or EMTALA.
It was passed in 1986 (at a time when every other western democracy had already had universal health care coverage for decades) to combat the problem of "patient dumping", where hospitals simply refused to treat people with medical emergencies because of their lack of insurance.
It is however not (despite Republican politicians sometimes falsely claiming so) actually universal health care coverage, as noted above.
Here is a further explanation why emergency medical coverage does not equal universal health care:
Offering free emergency care is obviously better then not doing so, yes - but it's still not universal health care.
It's also the most expensive way to treat patients - while actually not providing the best medical care.
Because many, many uninsured people have medical conditions that would be much better - and cheaper - treated by primary care.
But that option is not open to them - because the US lacks universal health care coverage.
So people who would need monitoring of their diabetes or high blood pressure or asthma or a host of other very common ailments get no such help - until their situation deteriorate so much that they're admitted for emergency care.
Which is obviously much worse for their health - and also for US health care costs, as it's a much, much more expensive way to treat these patients then to offer them the basic check-up's that would have saved them from becoming so ill.
Which in turn is one of the reasons why the US pays more then any other nations in the world for it's health care - while still not actually getting better health outcomes for the money she spends:
"According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States spent more on health care per capita ($9,403), and more on health care as percentage of its GDP (17.1%), than any other nation in 2014."
"A 2014 survey of the healthcare systems of 11 developed countries found that the US healthcare system to be the most expensive and worst-performing in terms of health access, efficiency, and equity."
The lack of preventative primary care is also a key reason while the US lags far behind not only other western democracies, but even some surprising nations, in different health care statistics.
As a jarring example I can mention the fact that the US has a higher child mortality rate not only then all other western democracies, but also Cuba - a country it has imposed a blockade against for over 50 years.
Or in other words - more American parents have to bury their infant children then Cuban parents does.
(Note that a lower placement on the list is better. Cuba is in place 181, the US in place 170)
Regarding your opinions on the value of frugal living and the avoidability of incurring medical debt, I can say that medical debt is the primary cause of personal bankruptcy in the US and that 62% of all indebted household cite out-of-pocket medical expenses as a contributor to their debt.
Medical debt is meanwhile an almost unknown phenomenon in any other western democratic country - because they all have universal health care.
This article about a man hit with a completely unexpected additional medical fee of $117,000 after a planned surgery also help explain the issue:
I write all of this not to hit you over the head or try to denigrate the US - I do it in the hopes that it may inform you and others who read this about the actual facts.
The US is not only the richest country in the world today - it's the richest country in the HISTORY of the world - and things certainly doesn't have to be this way!
Every American should have AT LEAST as good health care as citizens of any other western democracy, and American children should AT LEAST have the same chance of reaching adult age as Cuban children - I think we all can agree on that?
It's only a matter of money - and the US certainly has the money to pay for all of this, when far poorer nations have done so.
What's lacking is the political will to allocate the needed resources to this - and the reason for that is simply that no major US party has ever made this a priority.
And unfortunately a highly contributing factor in this is that Americans, at large, are very uniformed about how much worse their health care system is performing compared to the universal health care systems in the rest of the industrialized world.
Americans, to a great degree, accept their currant situation because they simply don't understand how far behind they have fallen compared to comparable nations.