Sunday, October 27, 2013

Universal Health Care and Freedom

One of the claims made most often about the Affordable Care Act or even the push for universal health care is that America will lose its status as a bastion of economic freedom.

But this line of conventional thinking is flawed. One example why is the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. The Heritage Foundation is the most prestigious conservative think tank in Washington D.C. The Heritage Foundation annually provides an index that rates countries based on a broad array of items related to economic freedom spanning four categories: rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets.


The ten highest rated countries in the 2013 Index are: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Mauritius (a small island country off the coast of Madagascar), Denmark and then the United States. If one were to believe the argument that America’s economic freedom would lessen if it had universal health care, then one would probably assume that the nine countries ahead of America would not have universal insurance either.

Heritage Index of Economic Freedom


However, this assumption is not correct. Surprisingly, all nine of the countries ahead of America on the Index of Economic Freedom have universal health care.

Rank
Country Name
Score
Universal Health
care?
Year Attained
1
Hong Kong
89.3
Yes
1993
2
Singapore
88
Yes
1993
3
Australia
82.6
Yes
1975
4
New Zealand
81.4
Yes
1938
5
Switzerland
81
Yes
1994
6
Canada
79.4
Yes
1966
7
Chile
79
Yes
2004
8
Mauritius
76.9
Yes
1970s
9
Denmark
76.6
Yes
1973
10
United States
76
?
2014?

The fact that the nine highest countries on the Index of Economic Freedom provide universal health care, and hence have a high level of government involvement in such a personal area, means countries can still have high levels of economic freedom even with universal health care.

Another perspective towards examining economic freedom in health care is by the amount government spends on health care. Theoretically, when the government spends money on health care, it removes economic freedom since it takes away people’s ability to use this money in the private economy. Since America does not have a single payer system, or even universal health care, one would not think that America would have a high level of public spending on health care compared to other countries. Wrong again.

Public Spending per capita (2011)


When examining hard data, it is clear that all the noise about America losing its status as a place of economic freedom if it implements universal health care is simply not true. According to Heritage, nine countries exist with more economic freedom with America even with universal health insurance. Moreover, even though it does not have a single payer health insurance system and 16% of its population is uninsured, public spending on health care per capita is the second highest in the world. Maybe its time that we stop arguing about the horrors of more government involvement in health care and realize universal health care will not lead America down a road to socialism.

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