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Universal Health Care Disadvantages

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Universal health care forces healthy people to pay for others' medical care. Chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, make up 85 percent of health care costs.

These diseases can often be prevented with lifestyle choices. The sickest 5 percent of the population consumes 50 percent of total health care costs. The healthiest 50 percent consume only 3 percent of the nation's health care costs. 

With free universal health care, people may not be as careful with their health. They don't have the financial incentive to do so. Without a copay, people might overuse emergency rooms and doctors.

Most universal health systems report long wait times for elective procedures. The government focuses on providing basic and emergency health care. 

Governments limit payment amounts to keep costs low. Doctors have less incentive to provide quality care if they aren't well paid. They might spend less time per patient to keep their costs down. They have less funding for new life-saving technologies.

Health care costs overwhelm government budgets. For example, some Canadian provinces spend 40 percent of their budget on health care. That reduces funding for other programs like education and infrastructure.

To cut costs, the government may limit services with a low probability of success. It may not cover drugs for rare conditions. It may prefer palliative care over expensive end-of-life care. On the other hand, the U.S. medical system does a heroic job of saving lives, but at a cost. Care for patients in the last six years of life makes up one-fourth of the Medicare budget. In their last month of life, half go to the emergency room. One-third wind up in the intensive care unit and one-fifth undergo surgery.

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