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What are National Medical Services?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2018
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National medical services include any health system organized by a national government designed to facilitate medical care for its citizens and residents. Generally speaking, these services feature medical, dental and mental health options for all participants. They include emergency medical services and medical health services based on standards and rules established by a centralized governing body, such as a ministry or department. The overall costs for national health services are generally funded by some sort of far-reaching taxation or public program, enabling each person within the jurisdiction to receive the same level of care and treatment as others. One major feature of national medical services is the fact that no one is left out of the program, despite the fact that some may pay more to participate than others.

Throughout history, people have been forced to purchase medical services on a private basis. In the strictest sense, if a person didn't have the funds to pay a doctor for service at the time of need, then he or she would not receive treatment, no matter the threat to life. Many problems arose with this philosophy, namely ethics and the fact that untreated illnesses spread more readily to others. In response, Germany became the first society on the planet to institute national medical services. In 1883, Otto von Bismarck passed a nationwide health care plan covering every citizen in the country.

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Today, every industrialized country on the planet has some form of national medical services with the exception of the United States. Russia, China, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Canada, Mexico, nearly every country in Europe, and most of South America have some form of health care services program for all of its residents. The overarching mandate in these countries stems from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, particularly Article 25. This document from the United Nations stated that every citizen of the planet had the right to adequate health care. Countries that presently do not provide national medical services have refrained from signing this provision, including the United States.

National medical services are supplied to citizens through a variety of means. The most prominent form of providing emergency medical services and general medical health services is through leveraging a combination of employer obligations, medical insurance companies and taxation. Private firms, with limited levels of profit, supply the national medical services to their pool of participants. Others take the form of a single-payer system that gives health care coverage to every citizen and resident through mandate, creating a bureaucratic system of medical facilities. Essentially, these countries pass laws that makes health care a right, not a privilege.

Criticisms of national health services come from those countries that have not implemented such system as well as those with flaws in their nation's programs. In the United States, the most prevalent arguments against national health services deal with the political association with socialism as well as general cost problems. Countries in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, often cite issues such as long lines and rationed care as flaws in the system.

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