Health

Universal Health Coverage Should Be a Fundamental Human Right

Although the United States is currently classified by the Human Development Index (HDI) as the 13th most developed nation on Earth, it still lacks one of the most fundamental human rights: a system for assuring that all of its residents are able to afford and receive healthcare. In fact, out of the HDI’s top 15 most developed nations, the United States is the only one that does not currently implement some sort of functioning universal healthcare system. The debate surrounding universal healthcare in the US is definitely nuanced, but ultimately, the argument for universal healthcare boils down to the notion that health is a basic human right. 

This is by no means a new concept — the constitution of the World Health Organization, which was written in 1948, declared universal health coverage to be a fundamental human right. There are three crucial objectives to universal health coverage: first, that everyone receives health services, not just those who can pay for them; second, that these health services effectively improve the wellbeing of those who receive them; third, that receiving these health services does not negatively impact the financial situations of patients. In short, universal health coverage seeks to ensure that no one forgoes receiving necessary healthcare because they can’t afford it. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. 

Although universal health coverage, sometimes referred to as ‘Medicaid for All,’ might seem like a lofty goal, it is possible. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 18 countries have fully achieved universal health coverage, which means that 100% of their population is covered by adequate health insurance. Many other nations, including Austria, Japan, and Spain, have achieved near-universal health coverage, which means that over 98% of their population is covered by adequate health insurance. In comparison to these nations, the US is actually lagging behind — as of late 2017, less than 88% of Americans reported being covered by adequate health insurance. Although the United States prides itself on being one of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world, it cannot claim to be a frontrunner when it comes to ensuring the health of its populace. 

Most Americans with health insurance are covered by employer-sponsored private coverage. Other Americans receive health insurance by qualifying for Medicare or Medicaid. Finally, a small percentage of Americans receive health insurance through the US military or Veterans Administration. However, this still leaves almost 30 million Americans who are not covered by any kind of health insurance. 

For people who are just starting to research the arguments behind universal healthcare in the United States, trying to make sense of the different kinds of health insurance systems can be incredibly confusing. There are three major ways that countries can achieve the goal of universal health coverage: a single-payer system, a two-tier system, and an insurance mandate. Of the 32 nations that offer universal health coverage, 16 utilize a single-payer system, 9 utilize a two-tier system, and 7 utilize an insurance mandate. 

In single-payer systems, the federal government is singlehandedly responsible for providing health insurance, which is funded by taxes. However, the actual healthcare services can either be government-run or contracted from private organizations. Nations with single-payer systems include the UK, Canada, and Norway. The US actually does have a modified single-payer healthcare system, Medicare, but not all US residents qualify for it. Most people who qualify for Medicare are retirees over the age of 65. However, you can also qualify for Medicare if you receive Social Security Disability Insurance or have been diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. If you don’t fall under any of these categories, then you cannot benefit from a single-payer health insurance system in the US. 

In two-tier systems, a basic government health insurance plan is mandatory for all residents. This plan is funded using taxes and covers basic services, including hospital services and general practitioners. However, additional services that are not covered by the basic government health insurance plan are offered privately, and can be paid for out-of-pocket, or by purchasing a supplementary private insurance plan. That being said, the nuances of individual two-tier systems vary from country to country. Nations with two-tier health insurance systems include France, Australia, and Singapore.

Finally, insurance mandates require that all the residents of a country are covered by some form of health insurance, with the bare minimum policies covering hospitalizations and outpatient medical treatment. Nations with insurance mandates include Germany, South Korea, and Switzerland. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, is a form of insurance mandate, with the goal of ensuring that all American residents are covered by some kind of health insurance. 

Many people are confused about what the ACA is actually supposed to do. One of the biggest ACA reforms is the establishment of public health insurance exchanges, which are like marketplaces that allow individuals and families to seek out and buy affordable and comprehensive health insurance plans. The ACA also provides increased government subsidies to help low and middle-income families afford health insurance. Additionally, it prohibits insurance companies from refusing service or charging higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions, making health insurance more affordable and accessible to all. The ACA also prohibits insurance companies from placing an annual or lifetime cap on how much money they’re willing to pay for an individual’s healthcare. Finally, the ACA requires all companies with at least 50 employees to offer affordable, comprehensive health insurance to all of their full-time employees. 

Although the ACA has made considerable strides towards the goal of achieving universal health coverage for all Americans, it’s not a perfect system, and has faced considerable pushback, especially from Republican politicians. One of the ACA’s major flaws involves Medicaid, a program established in the 1980s to provide affordable healthcare for low-income Americans. When the ACA was first established, one of its main goals was to expand Medicaid to all 50 states in the hopes that more low-income individuals could gain access to affordable health insurance. However, in 2012, the Supreme Court declared the expansion of Medicaid unconstitutional, which means that individual states are still allowed to opt out of providing expanded Medicaid coverage to their residents. As of 2019, 37 states (including Washington DC) have adopted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, but 14 states have chosen not to. This has created a coverage gap for low-income individuals in these 14 states, which means that about 2 million Americans still do not have affordable or accessible health coverage. Until all Americans, including those who live at or under the poverty line, are given access to affordable healthcare, we cannot claim to be a nation that values the fundamental human right of health. 

In March of 2019, the Trump Administration announced that it wanted to overthrow the entire Affordable Care Act, nullifying advances in healthcare coverage for over 30 million Americans. To do this, the Trump Administration is banking on a lawsuit against the ACA, Texas v. Azar, which seeks to declare the entirety of the ACA unconstitutional. Legal scholars are divided on whether or not this lawsuit poses a serious threat to the ACA, so in the coming months, the Texas v. Azar suit is definitely something to keep your eye on if you’re interested in following the debate surrounding the ACA. To combat the Trump Administration, House Democrats recently introduced a bill to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. Provisions in this bill include increasing subsidies for low-income individuals, expanding federal assistance to include individuals at higher income levels, and fixing the ACA’s notorious “family glitch,” which currently makes it difficult for employed individuals to afford insurance plans that include their spouses and children. However, because of rampant partisanship in Congress, it’s still unclear whether this bill will make any ground. 

Universal healthcare and ‘Medicaid for All’ has become the battleground of a fierce partisan debate, with Republicans and Democrats vying for political power by trying to repeal or strengthen the ACA. Although the debate swirling around universal health coverage and the ACA can be incredibly tense and confusing, it’s important to always keep in mind the core tenet of human rights that serves as the foundation of the argument for universal healthcare. Regardless of what form it ends up taking, access to quality healthcare is a fundamental human right, and every attempt to deny this healthcare is a degradation of the United States’ commitment to upholding human rights. 

Offering Mental Health Benefits at Work Is Good Business

In the 24/7 economy, more and more full-time employees are reporting feeling burned out at work. Workplace alienation, unreasonable expectations, ubiquitous hours, unmanageable task-load, workplace politics, and the overwhelming necessity of having to be available via email and text at all hours are all key contributors as to why the modern workforce is feeling burned out.

According to a Gallup study, 23 percent of full-time employees report feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. This burnout can be translated into stress that interrupts interpersonal relationships, to physical ailments in its extremes like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol and even death for those under the age of 45. All of this healthcare spending adds up to around $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year.

Stress and burnout are very real problems that the modern day workforce are dealing with, and when that stress and burnout couples with undiagnosed, untreated, or inaccessible mental health issues, the complications can be even more severe. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness, ranging in severity, with 40% of adults with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder not receiving treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illnesses cost about $100 billion a year in lost productivity due to hospitalization, loss of employment, impacted productivity, and shortened life spans.

Treatment for mental health is currently out of reach for many people. It takes time, money, and access to be able to begin treatment- that is why so many go untreated. There is also a stigma involved with mental illness, and for some that stigma is a barrier to health. If employers were to begin incorporating mental health access into their benefits, for all employees regardless of company status, such a move could be the groundswell of destigmatization that the mental health crisis facing us needs.

Companies at the top are already trying this approach to employee benefits to great success. The Silicon Valley juggernaut, Netflix, already sees this as a necessity in the modern workplace, and offers their employees the ability to take time for themselves when they need in addition to access to mental health services and parental leave. American Express offers employees on-site counseling, something that goes a long way for the destigmatization of therapy.

These efforts aren’t just ideas that sound good, they’re actually having a real and measurable impact on these businesses’ bottom line. According to the World Health Organization, “for every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.” Meaning that when companies take their employee’s mental health seriously, they become four times as healthy and productive.

If these policies and programs can be scaled to the point where all employees have access to mental health treatment, then that could completely revolutionize how and who gets access to mental health. Such a change could revitalize not only our workspaces, but also how we relate to one another as a society. It is clear that investing in employee mental health offers numerous benefits personally, interpersonally, and at large. What needs to be clearer is how all employers can get there.

The Mediterranean Diet Explained

If you've ever looked into healthy eating styles, you've probably heard about the Mediterranean diet. This diet is considered one of the healthiest lifestyle changes out there according to most dietitians and doctors, and there are a variety of books and articles on the subject.

The problem is that there is simply so much information out there, it can be difficult to define what the Mediterranean diet is. Fortunately, understanding the Mediterranean diet, and even switching to it, is relatively easy.

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What the Mediterranean Diet consists of

Rather than completely excluding you from any one nutrition source, except possibly processed foods, the Mediterranean diet embraces most food groups. Eating the Mediterranean diet doesn't mean cutting out carbs or saying no to meat. It is instead, choosing to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, supported by whole grains, lean meats, and the occasional glass of wine.

Because the Mediterranean diet consists of the food eaten by the native people of 23 different countries, there's a great deal of variety in what is considered acceptable. The focus is on fresh, wholesome, foods over highly processed ones.

So what foods specifically can you expect? Here are a couple of great options found commonly in almost all Mediterranean countries.

Salads

All Mediterranean countries serve salads, and plenty of them. Dieters who never want to see another lettuce leaf again may feel disappointed at first, until they see the dazzling toppings often included on these leafy treats. Mediterranean salads often feature a delicious blend of fruits, nuts, dressings, and other toppings to make that arugula and kale go down easily.

Fish and other Seafoods

When we think of the Mediterranean, we think of the sea, tropical beaches, and palm trees. It should come as no surprise then to learn that the Mediterranean diet consists of lots of seafood. Fish contain omega 3 fatty acids which are often neglected in the American diet, and can boost your cognitive function as well as your mood. Adding seafood of any kind is a great way to make your meals healthier.

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Flat breads

Mediterranean diets include a type of bread called pita, a bread that has gained attention through the health world because of its excellent flavor and wholesome nutrition. This flat bread is used with a host of different dips, running from hummus to olive oil, and so much more. Flat bread is a major component of this diet, and it should definitely be included in yours if you plan to switch.

How to adopt the Mediterranean Diet

If you want to lose weight, lower your risk of heart disease, and embrace a healthy lifestyle that doesn't limit you to a single food group, the Mediterranean Diet is the right choice for you. To get started, all you need to do is to incorporate more of these foods into your diet. Choose a variety of colors on your plate, including vegetables in every color and fruits as well. Enjoy lean meats, sea food, and snack away on your pita bread and dips. The Mediterranean diet even allows for some alcohol—wine in particular, in moderation.

Long term studies have followed the Mediterranean diet, and have found it to be an extremely healthy way to live. 

How to Incorporate Fitness Into Your Daily Life

Living a healthy and active life is particularly important, yet not many people are able to spend time training or working out. Many of us are stuck at work, often performing sedentary tasks that involve sitting on a chair and staring at a screen for many hours a day. Others might feel like they are too old or out of shape to start practicing fitness regularly. Regardless of your particular situation, there are many things you can do to incorporate fitness into your daily life and start noticing massive improvements.

Source:  Dave Rosenblum

Make time! 

Are you concerned that you can't spend too much time to dedicate to your wellness? If that’s the case, make some time! Waking up earlier than usual is a great way to gain some time without detracting any from your day-to-day activity. Simply set your alarm one hour earlier and use the time to do some exercises, go for an energizing morning run or have yourself a nutritious breakfast!

 

The gym is not the only way.

Source:  Adam Bautz

Source: Adam Bautz

Practicing fitness does not necessarily mean that you have to head over to the gym. There are many things you can do to stay physically active at home, at the office or elsewhere. Walking is a perfect example: it provides a lot of significant health benefits, such as improving blood circulation and preventing heart disease, and it is accessible to people of all walks of life - from youngsters to seniors!

 

In addition to walking and running around your block, there are a wide variety of fitness activities that you could practice without the need of going to the gym. Even 10-15 minutes of yoga a day could go a long way! If you are lucky enough to own a swim spa or a hot tub, you could also use it to stay active by practicing water-based exercises, such as stretches or aqua gym. The possibilities are endless!

 

Image source: Flickr

6 Simple Recipes That are Easy to Make and Taste Great

Now that February is here, are you still trying to eat healthy into the New Year? 

Whether it's berry smoothie bowls, sweet potato fries, grilled vegetable skewers, baked ratatouille, tomato pesto salmon, or shrimp asparagus stir fry - this step by step walkthrough video made by Tasty breaks down how easy it can be to keep up with your healthy eating goals!

Because a lot of healthy recipes can be made out of whole ingredients, it doesn't have to take a long time or be difficult to prepare a meal that tastes great and is great for you!

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Watch: Positivity and the Power of Choice

In this TEDx speech on the power of positivity, Samantha Rea breaks down how you can incorporate positive thinking into your daily life.

She begins be acknowledging that there are problems in the world, that it would be impossible to ignore them, and that it is unreasonable to think that simple positivity can solve every problem. Her argument, however, is that positive thinking can be an essential stepping stone to real world action, and lays the groundwork for people to begin to tackle problems.

By keeping a belief that things can and will get better when things seem hopeless, you immediately help yourself to start changing things. When you look for positive things, and choose to have a good day (as described in the video), you begin to focus on the good things in life and not the negatives- which leads to an increased quality of life.

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Living a Positive Life: What are the Health Benefits?

Being kind, polite and positive are often some of the most sought-after qualities for anyone. However, living an uplifting light with a radiant attitude is not solely a way to make people like you. A positive outlook on life could indeed enhance your health and help you live longer and better. Can positivity really improve your health? Read on to find out more.

 

Improve your physical health.

 

Being kind and positive often means that you are less prone to getting stressed. As you might know, stress could lower the quality of your life in many ways, causing a variety of physical and mental illnesses. Studies have linked stress to depression and anxiety, as well as to heart disease and high blood pressure. A happier life can help you prevent such problems.

Source:  Evan Blaser

Source: Evan Blaser

Improve your mental health.

 

Being kind and positive often means to be psychologically grounded. In other words, by living life with a positive attitude, you might be able to fight depression, stress, anxiety and other issues that might affect your emotional and mental health. 

 

In conclusion:

 

Living life with a kind and positive attitude can certainly help you with a wide variety of perks and benefits!

 

Image source: Flickr