Student Writer of the Year: Socialized Medicine – A Gift or a Curse?

by Lauren on October 18, 2011 · 5:51 pm

Eric Gormley
CAMA – Clinical and Administrative Assistant

Socialized Medicine – A Gift or a Curse?

For those of us who wonder about our current programs of healthcare, we often question whether or not there is a better alternative. Our government has been attempting to make health care less expensive for our country, and it is my opinion that socialized medicine could indeed aid us in spending less while making it easier on Americans.

Socialized medicine is a word often used in the United States to refer to many different kinds of public health care. It represents any system of medical care that is publicly financed, government administered, or both, though use of this word is sometimes wrong due to the large amount of confusion on what it means exactly.

What is Socialized Medicine?

Socialized Medicine was the best definitive word for officials to give the term in the U.S. The words are associated simply because of the nature of how our country believes it will indeed affect us economically and also will affect our health care system. (Goodman, 2009) The word association with socialism continues to be used against both sides of the argument to make negative feelings towards public control of the health care system in that country.

The main example where there are government employees as health care workers is in the of British National Health Service, but systems like this one operate  in other countries as well including Finland, Spain and Cuba. (Brochu, 2010) The United States’ Veterans Health Administration and the U.S. Army Medical Department also fall under the same category, but are not associated with the term.

The U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs,Canada’s Medicare system, the United Kingdom’s NHS general practitioner and dental services are systems where health care is delivered by private business with percentages or complete government funding. Most industrialized countries, and many smaller, developing countries have some form of public funded health care with coverage for all as their main goal. The United States is the only wealthy nation that does not provide universal health care.

Why is Socialized Medicine a Good Idea?

From the outside glancing in on socialized medicine it causes disturbances on a very touchy subject. Healthcare problems can cause disturbances that we are not really prepared for as a nation. It could start a mass panic for Americans. That is because we are indeed ignorant on the subject.

However, most Americans have little to no understanding of universal health care. Not only that, they have never done the research themselves to see if it was better for them in any way. There are a few positives to bringing the European style of healthcare.

One, you don’t pay to see a doctor. Whether you’re treating a common cold or getting a surgical procedure, you will never pay any amount of money ever. And it truly may sound good, and it is very good, but it is also very sad if you are used to having the option of your insurance card or choosing with your insurance company over exactly what percentage of your bill it will cover for any given doctors visit.

Two, the co-pays for prescriptions are much cheaper. In fact, children’s prescriptions are almost always entirely free. Adults pay a set fee that is usually somewhere around six or seven pounds, or about $10 American dollars.

Three, pharmacists play more of a triage role. They have the capability to help diagnose a patient due to their stricter, in depth training. (Brochu, 2010) Pharmacists over in the U.K. work more like part doctors. They are not only equipped to treat minor problems including rashes, coughs, eye infections and stuff like that. They could take care of more problems than normal which would aid our current system to better serve the American people. More and more often, they offer advice on things like quitting smoking and losing weight as well as early screening for long-term problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Fourth, Doctors prescribe fewer drugs. No matter what’s wrong with your child, the first question a doctor here will always ask is: “Does your child seem ill?” Basically, unless the kid has such a bad sickness that he or she can’t walk, and the chance of he or she getting worse is high, the rule of thumb is that they probably don’t need to be seen by a doctor.

Fifth, doctors are paid per person, not per treatment. In the U.S., doctors are paid by the treatment. This creates a powerful incentive to prescribe medication, if for no other reason than to feel that they’ve covered all of the bases. This causes the people to pay more for services, even if they cannot really afford it.  Under the NHS, in contrast, doctors are paid by the government according to the number of people they see. (Socialized Medicine, 2010)

Sixth, you take more responsibility for your own health. The standard critique of socialized medicine is that it’s the government — not the individual — that’s making decisions about our health.

Seventh, you see fewer specialists. Much like an HMO in the U.S., your first place to call in a U.K.-style system is always your general practitioner, who then refers you on to a specialist if the situation calls for it. The difference is that GPs in the U.K. treat a much wider range of problems than they do in the U.S. So, for example, in the U.S., any kind of women’s health issue is generally handled by an OB/GYN, while children generally see pediatricians. There, in contrast, your GP could theoretically give you a pap smear, tend to your son’s ear infection and treat your daughter’s asthma all in one visit. This type of health care system runs smoother, and is thus in some ways more efficient than the American one. (Socialized Medicine, 2010)

Finally, there is more after-hours coverage. Most national health care systems make it much easier to see a doctor at night and on weekends. We have all been caught in that situation of having to wait to tend to our sickness, and until we can either afford it, or if we have a sick child on a Saturday night and weighing the costs; economic, emotional, and logistical of going to the emergency room or just taking our chances and waiting for a day to come that will be better to go on. If my child becomes ill on the weekend anywhere in the United Kingdom, I simply make an appointment with a local health care cooperative, and he or she can be seen day or night. (Brochu, 2010)


In the end, there are pros and cons to both systems, though I hope that this paper has helped the public understand the option is considerably less pressuring in working toward getting a better America tomorrow. There must be a compromise between big business and the health care system before we can further our progress.


Brochu, M. (n.d.) The Question of Socialized Medicine
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Goodman, J (2009). Cato’s Letter – Five Myths of Socialized Medicine
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Socialized Medicine – pros and cons (2009)
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Socialized Medicine has a Good Side (2010)
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