Achieving Universal Health Coverage

Attaining universal health coverage (UHC) requires significant public sector investments and swift action. Reorientation of healthcare systems towards primary health care approaches must be combined with equity in accessing services and financial protection for vulnerable groups, as well as robust health information systems investments to achieve UHC. Countries worldwide should prioritize investing in UHC as it addresses pandemic-driven pandemic threats as well as global macroeconomic, climate, demographic and political trends that threaten hard-won advances in human development.

Universal healthcare systems – often referred to as single-payer or socialized medicine – vary significantly across nations, but the basic principle remains constant: all citizens should have access to affordable medical care without financial hardship. Certain OECD nations provide free or nearly-free care through publicly owned facilities and systems like Britain’s National Health Service and Germany’s national insurance scheme; others offer mixed public/private systems like South Korea’s Health Insurance Program which does not completely provide free care but allows residents access to private clinics for additional services such as South Korea’s Health Insurance program which does allow residents to utilize private clinics/doctors for additional services when necessary.

UHC should be an international priority that should be realized without regard for age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, language or economic position. While many countries have made progress toward UHC over recent decades by increasing health service coverage and decreasing out-of-pocket expenditures, aggregate data still mask significant inequalities within each country – such as how rural areas, households with elderly family members and low-income families are particularly at risk from high out-of-pocket healthcare payments; similarly chronic illnesses like cancer present high costs that often hinder treatment or complete treatments which in turn results in worse health outcomes than anticipated.

High out-of-pocket costs and lack of coverage can impede a family’s ability to invest in education and other assets essential for sustainable growth, and hundreds of millions worldwide remain unable to access essential services due to unaffordable healthcare costs.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 12 December International Universal Health Coverage Day to raise awareness and momentum towards universal healthcare coverage. For this to occur, governments must focus on primary healthcare delivery systems while including all services – preventive, curative and palliative care alike – within benefit packages; invest in quality improvement as well as ensure sustainability through domestic public resources or partnerships; take up these challenges together – now is the time!

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