Fact Checked

What is National Health Insurance?

Susan Grindstaff
Susan Grindstaff

National health insurance is a term that describes comprehensive health care resources provided by a centralized government. In most instances, health care services are available to all citizens, at no cost, or at greatly reduced rates. Governments usually pay for national health care by levying additional taxes on the income of their citizens. There is generally a great deal of debate regarding quality of care when when comparing national health insurance to its private counterpart.

Antagonists of national health insurance usually claim that the quality of care suffers without the private market to dictate income and cost. They argue that doctors and nurses who work under a national system of health care cannot achieve the same level of income as they would if their income came from the private sector. Those who are against national health care believe that without the motivation of high earnings, the quality of personnel usually declines.


Some countries who offer national health care also offer education programs to help ensure they attract the best possible candidates for medical professions. Some of those programs include education grants and scholarships to eliminate or reduce the cost of medical training. The idea seems to be that reducing the cost of education may offset the lack of earning potential.

In countries without national health insurance, most citizens pay for medical services by enrolling in private insurance plans that pay for the majority of their health care needs. Health insurance premiums are often expensive, and many people cannot afford the coverage. In the United States (US), health care is a part of the private sector, but low-cost health care is available by means of two programs called Medicaid and Medicare. Medicare is designed to help pay for the health care of the elderly, while Medicaid is a program to help with the medical needs of people who are below the poverty level.

In the US, there are a great many people who cannot afford health insurance, but who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. These people often go without medical services, because out-of-pocket medical costs are also beyond their means. Sometimes, these people wait until they are ill enough to receive emergency treatment before visiting a doctor. In the United States, most hospitals do not deny emergency treatment to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

Supporters of national health insurance claim that without government-run programs, a great many people lack routine medical care, simply due to their inability to pay. They maintain that health care systems such as the one in the US may eventually lead to situations where only the very wealthy and the very poor are able to receive treatment. Though much research supports national health care, most citizens of the US seem to be against implementing such programs. This may be in response to quality concerns or the necessity of paying higher taxes in order to provide health coverage for everyone.

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