Universal Health Care at a Glimpse

Universal health care, or universal healthcare, is health care coverage that is extended to all citizens, and sometimes-permanent residents, of a governmental region. Universal health care programs vary widely in their structure and funding mechanisms, particularly the degree to which they are publicly funded. Typically, most health care costs are met by the population via compulsory health insurance or taxation, or a combination of both.

Universal health care systems require government involvement, typically in the forms of enacting legislation, mandates and regulation. In some cases, government involvement also includes directly managing the health care system, but many countries use mixed public-private systems to deliver universal health care.

In the 1880s, most citizens in Germany became covered under the mandatory health care system championed by Otto von Bismarck. The National Health Service (NHS), established in the United Kingdom in 1948, was the world’s first universal health care system provided by government. Universal health care is provided in most developed countries and in many developing countries. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care.


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