SEATTLE — A global universal health care declaration argues that investment in healthcare for all financially benefits developing and developed countries. Published in the Lancet medical journal during September of this year, the document includes the signatures of 267 economists from 44 different countries.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary and current Harvard University economics professor, Lawrence Summers, authored of the document. He wrote that “the economic benefits of investment in grand convergence are estimated to be more than ten times greater than costs—meaning that early stages on the pathway to UHC, focused on high pay-off convergence interventions.”
Professor Summers and an array of economists agreed on a substantial economic argument in favor of universal healthcare.
Among economists who signed the declaration are five Nobel Laureates, two former chief economists of the World Bank, the world famous author of the Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty, and various other economists from every continent. The Rockefeller Foundation also signed the declaration.
Nobel laureate and signatory Joseph Stiglitz said about the declaration, “As the gap between rich and poor keeps growing, we must prioritize policies that work to counter inequality, universal health coverage does just that, ensuring everyone has access to health care, without which they cannot succeed, and strengthening economies as a result.”
The argument breaks down into four essential points:
- There is a historic opportunity to dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths from infectious diseases through universal healthcare, given the availability of healthcare tools such as internet technologies.
- Around 150 million people are impoverished because of healthcare costs. Universal health care would prevent low-income families from paying high hospital costs and, therefore, create productive state economies with lower poverty rates.
- The economic benefits of investing in healthcare are ten times greater than the cost of investing. In the past decade low- and middle-income countries increased their economic growth by a quarter because of improvements in health.
- Health epidemics, like the Ebola crisis, that economically shock communities can be regulated with effective public health systems.
The reform depends on funding from foreign governments and donors, according to the declaration. Summers called “on global policy makers to prioritize a pro-poor pathway to universal health coverage (UHC) as an essential pillar of development.”
He also urged global leaders to consider investing in UHC “to maximize progress by 2030,” explaining that most countries are capable of domestically funding healthcare reform through taxes. The underlying message was that it is cheaper, in the long run, to invest now.
However, for lower-income countries international assistance is necessary. As long as lower-income countries agree to invest in UHC, “particularly research and development for diseases of poverty,” then they can be successful in benefiting from a stable health care system.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are in accordance with the economists. The set of 17 goals is aimed at helping the world’s poor. The Global Health and Well Being goal advocates for achieving, “universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all” by 2030.
Summers summed up the economists’ argument by stating that “adequate finance of these global functions is likely to prove the most efficient path to improving conditions of the poor in middle-income countries.”
The goals of both the signatories and the UN focus on improving medical research and development, preventing pandemics like the Ebola virus crisis and supporting global leaders and institutions that want to ensure people get the healthcare they need.