Universal health care insurance is a type of health insurance option that is designed to be readily available for everyone living within a defined jurisdiction, such as a nation, province, or state. The goal is to provide health care to all citizens, without the need for those individuals and families to purchase private health insurance. Different types or models for this kind of health care coverage are in use around the world, with the models varying in the scope of coverage as well as in how the programs are funded.
One of the more common models for universal health care insurance is the public-based system. With this approach, the health care system is operated under the auspices of the government and is often supported by taxation of all working citizens. With this type of coverage, citizens are able to seek the services of general practitioners who have the authority to refer patients to specialists when and as needed. In some cases, the network is supported by the imposition of fees that are based on the income level of the patient. At other times, the fees may be set. In nations that provide some sort of government-managed universal health care insurance, citizens often have the option of also carrying private health insurance or even participating in a group insurance plan provided through an employer.
A second approach to universal health care insurance is known as the private-based system. Here, the government does not own or operate the health care program, but does impose a number of regulations on how the coverage is provided to citizens. While the care is still readily available to all at reduced fees, the plans are often supported by a combination of taxes collected and allocated by the government, assessments from health care facilities, and the fees assessed when and as medical services are provided. As with public universal health care insurance programs, the private plan may involve basing the fees on the ability of the patient to pay, or simply impose a flat fee regardless of income level.
The goal of any universal health care insurance initiative is to make sure everyone living within the jurisdiction has access to competent health care when and as needed. Support for this type of state-operated or regulated initiative varies, with proponents seeing health care as a basic human right. Detractors consider universal health care insurance as more of a service that must be purchased by those who can afford it. A number of nations around the world have private or public universal plans in place, while others are considering the implementation of this type of health care program.