Government and Health

General Topic Information

When considering questions around governments, there are two very important considerations that should not be overlooked. The first is that governments have restrictions placed on them by the amount of money that they have – they must make choices about how they spend money and cannot fund every program that they would like to. When discussing whether governments should allocate money to a particular program it also should be viewed in terms of the overall budget – an Arts program might not be as important as healthcare but the amount of money spent compared to healthcare might be negligible.

The second consideration is that people often view government spending as other people’s money. It is not – it is taxpayers’ money that is raised from the citizens of a country. When considering aid to foreign countries the funds belong to citizens and governments have an obligation to ensure that any funds given in aid must represent value. Governments usually give aid indirectly to ensure that funds go to the intended recipients. This means that the form of aid is very important and it is often best done through providing skill (people) or through donor government agencies.

All people (and organisations) have an obligation to assist others in need; however, those who are receiving aid have a responsibility to use aid given in the best way possible. This creates problems when governments are corrupt and not acting in the best interests of citizens – mostly countries are poor because of conflict, corruption and poor management. Usually this means that aid must be given very thoughtfully if it is to reach the intended beneficiaries. Handing over cash invites corruption – most successful emergency aid provides basic necessities given directly to those in greatest need. In the case of development projects, funding is usually controlled by the donor and is given in foreign expertise and materials. A key element of successful projects is by involving local organisations that must ultimately manage the aid that is provided.

It is a basic responsibility of governments to look after the health of their citizens and governments should provide a basic level of health care to all of its citizens. However, private health organisations also have a role to play in public health. They can provide higher level services that can support the health system – these higher levels of support can cover items such as avoiding long waiting lists, providing higher levels of care, providing non-essential services such as knee or hip replacements, varicose veins removal, lap-band surgery and other desirable but non-essential services. The higher paying patients are also removed from the public system removing strain and reducing waiting times.

Alternative medicine is medicine that does not come through the medical establishment. It includes herbal remedies, acupuncture and vitamin supplements. Alternative medicine is usually untested and its use is based on anecdotal evidence; however, because even if a remedy has not been proven scientifically, it may still be effective. Alternative medicines are particularly attractive when patients have terminal illness or severe pain that cannot be treated through proven methods. However, being unproven is a problem because the human body is complicated and unknown or harmful effects may arise.

Drugs usually have more than one function and some effects may take many years before the effect is realised (this is particularly true of treatments that cause cancer or damage internal organs). Thalidomide is probably the best example of an inadequately tested drug and was used to treat morning sickness but also caused birth defects resulting in children being born without arms and legs. A further problem with alternative medicines is that they can be used to cheat vulnerable people because exaggerated claims can be readily made about them.

Topic Vocabulary

Elective surgery
– Surgery that is not urgent and can be delayed for some time is described as elective surgery.
Alternative medicine – Alternative medicines are medicines that are generally not accepted by the medical profession as having been shown to be effective.
Herbal remedies – Herbal remedies are products from plants that are believed to be useful for treating injuries or illness but have not been scientifically verified. Many Chinese medicines can be classified as herbal remedies.
Vitamin supplements – Vitamins taken as pills or tablets in order to make up for dietary problems.
Thalidomide – A drug invented in the 1950’s to cure morning sickness and was later found to cause babies to be born handicapped. The use of thalidomide became a major scandal in Western medicine because when the manufacturer became aware that thalidomide caused birth defects, the drug company that manufactured the drug failed to stop selling it.

Sample Essay – Health Care Providers

Health is very important for everyone and healthcare should not be provided by private profit making companies. What is your opinion?

In order to ensure the highest overall quality level of healthcare, it is probably necessary to allow both profit and not-for-profit organisations to provide health services. Although it is critical for governments to provide quality health care for all members of society, private companies can remove some of the burden placed on the public system by providing high quality services to those who are able to pay for them. In this essay the role of both government and not-for-profit health care providers and companies in providing health care will be discussed.

Governments have a responsibility to provide quality health care to citizens and play a critical in ensuring that people have adequate health care. The role of government is to act as a safety net to ensure that those who cannot afford health care receive treatment when they need it. However, governments are also restricted in the amount of money that they can spend on health care and must prioritise their spending. This means that urgent cases are dealt with promptly while less urgent cases often involve long waiting periods, which may be unsatisfactory for patients.

The role of private companies is also important in providing a quality health care system because they often reduce stress on the public system by meeting the needs of wealthier patients. People usually place a high value on their health and many people are willing to pay higher prices for a better level of care. This comes in the form of access to better facilities and more comfortable surroundings such as private rooms and higher nurse to patient ratios as well as access to more expensive specialized treatment and faster access to elective surgery and treatments. The weakness of such a system is that wealthier patients will almost always receive better treatment compared to the general population creating a perception of unfairness. However, such a system leads to better overall levels of care for everyone.

In summary, private companies play a useful role in supplementing government health care systems and leads to better treatment for all patients. However, it also leads to more unequal treatment with wealthier patients receiving much better care than less wealthy patients.

Essay Notes
This topic provides challenges because students typically focus on what is best for people rather than whether it is practical to provide the services that people desire.
Affordability is a key question surrounding funding for all government programs. Most government spending is directed towards healthcare, education and infrastructure development and any increase in funding of these key areas will require governments to raise taxes. Therefore the government must balance the needs of public healthcare against the burden placed on taxpayers. The very best healthcare is extremely expensive and unaffordable and the challenge for governments is how to get the best healthcare for its citizens. In practice one of the ways that governments increase the level of healthcare provided is to allow private providers to offer premium services to those who are able to pay for them; however, this leads to issues of equality. In this essay two body paragraphs have been used. The first describes the role of government health organisations and the second describes the role of private health companies.
In this essay the opening sentence of the introduction lists the topic and why it is important (because people want the best level of healthcare they can get).
The second sentence provides the structure and the key ideas of the essay by first stating government’s responsibility to provide the best level of healthcare possible followed by the idea that government health systems can be supported by private companies. The third sentence of the introduction is a thesis statement and states that the purpose of the essay is to describe the different roles played by government and private healthcare providers.
The first body paragraph covers the role of government in providing healthcare. The key ideas are that the government has a responsibility to provide basic health care to all citizens, that governments are restricted in what they can do because of limited money and that these restrictions mean that non-urgent cases may be dealt with very slowly. It should be noted that this paragraph has three related ideas and is ideas focused. It has no examples.
The second body paragraph covers the role of private companies in healthcare systems and covers the ideas that private companies take stress off the private system and that some people are able to pay more for better treatment. This idea is supported with a number of simple examples including people paying for private rooms and faster access to non-urgent procedures. The second part of the paragraph explains the downside of having private companies provide medical care, which is that such a system leads to unequal treatment of people within society. However, this is softened by the use of a further idea, which is that despite the unequalness that having private companies providing health services causes, it does lead to an overall improved level of service for all citizens.
The conclusion consists of a single sentence and covers the key ideas presented in the essay in a simple and direct fashion.

Essay Vocabulary
Not-for-profit organisation – A not-for-profit organisation is any organisation that exists solely to support the community and does not earn a profit over time.
Healthcare providers – A healthcare provide is any company or organisation that provides healthcare.
Elective surgery – Elective surgery is an operation that is not urgently required.
More comfortable surroundings – More comfortable surroundings refers to a better environment, particularly an indoor environment.
Adequate – Adequate refers to anything that meets basic standards but offers little beyond that standard