Implications of a Universal Healthcare System in the United States: Why Individual Health Is Now of National Concern

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Virginia Tech


In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. This paper explores the implications of these new healthcare policies in the United States, given that a universal healthcare system has already being put in place. More specifically, it explores the question "Does the new 'universal healthcare' system bring with it obligations for citizens participating within the system to be more conscientious about their health and lifestyle choices? And if so, on what grounds?". I argue that individuals have strong social and moral obligations within a universal healthcare system to take the minimal provisions required for staying healthy (eating healthy, exercising, getting vaccinations, smoking cessation, and attending routine "check-ups" in order to not burden others with easily avoidable healthcare costs. These new obligations are grounded in the duty of fair play stemming from the fact that health insurance is a cooperative scheme. Furthermore this paper will show that when a universal healthcare scheme is in place, the healthcare resources become a 'common good' which is susceptible to a collective action problem known as 'the tragedy of the commons', and thus also give recommendations for its solution. The solutions that I endorse, although designed to address the free-rider problem recognized David Winkler, shows that Winkler's solution goes too far by indiscriminately punishing every unhealthy individual within a universal healthcare system.



Philosophy, Universal Healthcare, Public Health, Public Policy