Universal Health Care Series: The Consumerist Argument

photo courtesy of snappybex

photo courtesy of snappybex

This post is Part IV in a series exploring reasons to support universal health care. You can find the other parts of the series here.

If you have ever tried to closely read your health insurance policy, it is fairly complex and confusing even for the well-educated. The fine print is disadvantageous to consumer knowledge and influence. After all entities such as Consumer Reports, The Consumerist and Ralph Nader exist for a reason; safeguards and information sharing are necessary to protect the consumer from industry sometimes.

That fine print in your policy may bear part of the blame for the estimated 25 million people are underinsured, individuals who have private insurance coverage but still have problems with access to care. Universal health care empowers the consumers not only in increasing access, but also in other ways that allow information decisions about one’s health.

Greater transparency and clarity in policy

Universal coverage favors patients’ rights; a single policy will clearly explain procedures and services. A single policy also mean less general administration and bureaucracy which promotes clearer lines of accountability.

Greater continuity in quality of care

Universal coverage gives consumers more freedom because they do not have to worry about gaps in coverage due to life changes: changing jobs, moving, etc. It also gives consumers who have preexisting conditions the freedom to leave their jobs without fear of not getting coverage with a new insurance company. Universal coverage ends the paradoxical phenomenon of the underinsured. Right now, millions are paying insurance premiums to receive nothing in return in benefits despite on paper having benefits.

Greater incentive for changes in system infrastructure

Implementing universal health coverage has some indirect effects on the infrastructure of the health system over time. The most important potential change is making health care more convenient for the consumer. Generally, area public hospitals that act as the sole safety net are few and far between for the consumers that need access to them. The geographic obstacle is one of many that prevents consumers from taking advantage of care that is free currently. Increasing equality of the distribution of points of access to care helps to improve the health of the consumer. Ensuring access also gives an incentive for a growth in the number of primary care specialists in comparison to the number of specialists due to the increase in demand.

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