Throughout all of the debate about healthcare going on around the country, there has been one crucial aspect missing from the dialogue: where our healthcare system puts us in a globalized political economy. The United States is the only industrialized nation that lacks universal healthcare, despite the fact that we spend more per capita on healthcare than any other industrialized nation. Even some developing countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Peru have universal health care programs. In a globalized world where people regularly work or study in foreign countries, our lack of universal healthcare is negatively affecting our economy.
While Republicans (and some Democrats) in Congress are claiming that universal health care or even a public option would hurt businesses (particularly small businesses), this is not necessarily the case. Providing health insurance coverage for employees in the United States causes costs businesses extraordinary amounts of money, often resulting in lower wages or no health coverage at all for employees. This puts the United States at a disadvantage economically because it discourages businesses (large and small) from operating in the United States. For example, if you were the head of a major corporation and had the option of opening up a manufacturing plant in the United States or a country such as Japan, where taxes might be slightly higher, but you didn’t have to worry about providing your employees with insurance, which would you choose? Most likely you would choose the country with universal healthcare. Effects of this can be seen across the country as small businesses close their doors, fewer employers offer health benefits, and companies and workers leave for countries with universal healthcare.
Which brings me to another way in which America’s healthcare system is hurting our economy: human capital. In a global political economy, it is not that difficult for an individual to go to university or work in a foreign country. In fact, with fields such as engineering, law, and business become increasingly international, working in another country is becoming the norm. The United States, however, is having trouble recruiting engineers, doctors, and architects from other countries, partially because we do not offer universal healthcare. They just cannot fathom spending up to $20,000 a year on healthcare, when in their home countries it is provided for little to no cost, even if their salaries are higher in the U.S. Meanwhile, more and more Americans professionals (particularly younger ones) are accepting jobs outside of the United States. Similarly, universities in the United States are having trouble recruiting international applicants while more and more students from the U.S. are getting degrees abroad. And I believe that healthcare plays an important role in that, as it can be one of the largest expenses a student has besides tuition. Overall, universal healthcare cannot be discounted as a economic motivator for individuals. And if the United States isn’t careful we may be losing all of our human capital to countries with universal healthcare, which would be detrimental to our economic future.
-Submitted By Chelsea Howard-Foley, Class of 2011