As the world battles the current pandemic, healthcare institutions continue to struggle and remain afloat as numbers increase. In some countries, healthcare workers have to make ethical and professional decisions on who gets maximum treatments and who comes first. There are even shortages on hospital beds.
On the other hand, patients also have to worry about financial repercussions. Worse: debt becomes the residual symptom of this pandemic. Way before COVID-19 happened, “About 100 million people are still being pushed into extreme poverty (defined as living on 1.90 USD or less a day) because they have to pay for health care.” During the pandemic, a man and his daughter faced a $4,000 bill for their quarantine after traveling to China. This is only one case amongst millions.
Healthcare and social inequalities
The virus—like many health problems—doesn’t choose who to infect. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go for our social systems. As a result, the pandemic highlights the privileges of the middle to upper class and how the lower-class often do not have a choice.
Social distancing, for instance, is a privilege. While those with comfortable homes, steady incomes, and enough savings stay at home, the lower class suffers hunger as their sources of money are shut down as the world comes to a pause. They are stuck in their homes, in overpopulated areas where the houses are tightly knit into each other.
When the virus hits them, the healthcare system may be unable to resolve their plight, as acquiring treatment would mean a significant increase in expenses. The price—for them—could be a lifetime of debt and inescapable poverty.
How UHC can help?
In 2012, the United Nations committed to giving everyone a Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC). The goal to make “essential, quality health services” accessible for all without excessive financial damages. UHC also pushes for better healthcare equipment, networks, systems, processes, and governance. With the help of UHC, people will not have to worry about seeking medical help or taking a private ultrasound scan in London. By 2030, members of the United Nations promised to attain universal health coverage.
However, universal healthcare remains to become a cause of debate among governing bodies. Furthermore, UHC entails a massive amount of budget allocation. According to the Disease Control Priorities Network, low-income countries will need to implement an annual raise of $53 per person in health expenditures.
Perhaps, in the future, countries will find ways to sustain universal healthcare—financially, economically, and socially. As of the moment, the facts regarding the presence of UHC are compelling. For instance, life expectancy for countries with UHC is 21 years higher. In Thailand, a country with universal healthcare, the mortality rate made a historic decrease, and the life expectancy unbelievably increased. Investing in healthcare also reaps high economic rewards—as featured in Rwanda 20 Years on: Investing in Life—because people “live longer and with greater capacity to pursue the lives they value.”
A lot of reform can happen within ten years, and one can be optimistic enough to hope that the pandemic catalyzes the necessary change in healthcare systems. With proper pacing and governance, countries—even third world ones—can achieve universal healthcare.