From Paul Krugman's MasterClass

Health Care: The Solutions

Using examples from health care systems in the UK, Canada, and Switzerland, Paul examines three approaches to universal healthcare, noting the positives and challenges of each.

Topics include: Three Approaches to Public Health Care • Universal Coverage Isn't as Costly as It Seems • The Political Challenge: Path Dependence • Advocating for Health Reform


Using examples from health care systems in the UK, Canada, and Switzerland, Paul examines three approaches to universal healthcare, noting the positives and challenges of each.

Topics include: Three Approaches to Public Health Care • Universal Coverage Isn't as Costly as It Seems • The Political Challenge: Path Dependence • Advocating for Health Reform

Paul Krugman

Teaches Economics and Society

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Universal health care has dominated the news for many cycles, with many people arguing that it’s a human right. But what exactly is it? Here’s a primer on universal health care, including the benefits, the potential disadvantages, and why it’s such a hot topic in the United States. What Is Universal Health Care? Universal health care is a broad term that encompasses any action that a government takes to provide health care to as many people as possible. Some governments do this by setting minimum standards and regulations and some by implementing programs that cover the entire population. But the ultimate goal is health coverage for all citizens. Pros and Cons of Universal Health Care Universal health care is a hotly debated topic on both sides of the aisle. It is important to learn about the benefits and drawbacks that are often cited regarding a nation-wide policy like universal health care. Pros of Universal Health Care The most obvious pro of universal health care is that everyone has health insurance and access to medical services, and that no one goes bankrupt from medical fees. But there are other pros as well. On the federal level, universal health care lowers health care costs for the national economy, because the government controls prices for medications and services. That streamlining trickles down to the doctors offices themselves, where doctors are able to reduce administrative costs and hire fewer staff, because they’re not forced to work with a myriad of health care companies. Universal health care also equalizes service, with no doctors or hospitals being able to target and cater to wealthier clients. That means everyone gets the same level of care, which ultimately leads to a healthier workforce and longer life expectancy. When a person has universal health care from birth, it can also to lead to longer and healthier lives and reduce societal inequality by improving the long term prospects of poor children. Cons of Universal Health Care A common criticism of universal health care is that the overall quality and variety of care declines. Without the capitalist impetus to provide great care, some argue, doctors reduce their quality of care. In some countries with universal health care, patients see long wait times or even have to wait months to be seen at all. Governments focus on providing essential and lifesaving health care and may neglect to cover rare diseases or elective procedures. Finally, universal health care is expensive. If a government is struggling with their budget, they may find that health care is taking money away from other essential programs. Types of Universal Health Care There are essentially three ways to provide universal health care. Socialized medicine Single-payer system Private insurance The first is for government to provide healthcare directly under “socialized medicine.” In this case, all hospitals would be owned by the government and all doctors and nurses wo...

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For Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, economics is not a set of answers—it’s a way of understanding the world. In his economics MasterClass, Paul teaches you the principles that shape political and social issues, including access to health care, the tax debate, globalization, and political polarization. Heighten your ability to read between the lines and decipher the underlying economics at play.


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Universal coverage eliminates the need for much of the VA system, the county health system, and Workers’ Comp. imagine the savings.


it's strange that his solution focuses on dealing with the short run effects n don't even mentions the long run cause of the Health problems in the USA: Prevention. The Cuban system is one of the most effectives on Earth (higher life expectancy than USA), because doctors receive a variable salary depending on how healthy they keep people within his area/district. If lobbys keep Congress not properly educating in schools about NUTRITION n not regulating junk food, people is gonna b more proppense 2 get sick


I'm conservative by nature, but I do believe we need to go into a single payer / tax based system. Insurance companies need to be completely thrown out, as they bring nothing to the table. They only dip into a big part of the dollars being shelled out. Slice 30%(?) of the cost of health. The same goes with litigation. Slice another 20%(?) of the cost. Regulate prescriptions. We could bring the costs down to an affordable level. It would be important to continue the high incomes of physicians, as we want that profession to attract bright minds.

A fellow student

Fortunately, the USA is different from other countries. I like it that I am a citizen of the USA. Would it not be better for our "elected" individuals in our government to provide solutions to the problem rather than some uncontrolled bureaucracy? We currently have a safety net that works. It can be improved but why throw the baby out with the bath water.


Paul generally has a liberal agenda but he is right about France: healthcare is incredibly efficient there and the pension system is a mess. Healthcare is a single payer system with publicly and privately run hospitals.

A fellow student

But total health expenditures is a wrong metric. It is skewed by the payments of the rich. You should take the median.

A fellow student

I always hear how the US is the only developed country without universal healthcare. It sounds like Obamacare (or at least how it was intended) is similar to what they have in Germany and Switzerland. So if the US still isn't on the list then how does Obamacare fall short of the programs in these other countries?

Mary E.

Paul missed a few things on Health Care. The costs aren't just tied to a system. That can be fixed. What other countries do not have, is our fear of death and the expectation that health care is to treat instead of being more proactive. We go to great lengths to try to keep people alive, and we also let families decide when to stop treatment. We put more focus on treating the immediate issue instead of what quality of life can they have, which drives up the costs. Sometimes I question if the government via Medicaid should really be paying for knee/hip replacements on people that are not active or have changes in their quality of life after the procedure. What value was the procedure? Was the risk of getting infections or surgery itself worth it? Those are the questions that other places are having. We also would rather take pills or other measures instead of changing our lifestyles. We have a reactive health care system and some of the countries with better costs for outcome are much more proactive and factor in the quality of life better into the treatment plans.


Did I miss something? The professor proposed three systems then said all are unrealistic (near term) solutions. So what is a realistic step in the right direction? The course should provide a list of options in the downloadable PDF for students to look into. This series is frustrating. It brings up important topics and only scratches the surface of each. I can easily find deeper, more informative videos for free on Youtube.

Robert G.

Most people around us start succumbing to death at about 54-55. In my own life, there have been lots within the last three years. That sucks? You know when the chips are down and you have absolutely nothing and rebuild from scratch before you die then come talk to me about costs and greed. Having money is everything in your world and most will never go without. Healthcare is a plus in my economy. My government my health. In my economy, the health of my people come first. But in the real world if you get sick you are basically fucked.