I just got back from the dentist and was robbed blind (as usual) I do have insurance but even than I paid $1100 for a root canal, $100 for x-rays, and $400 for re-implanting a tooth that fell out. I'm talking about European health care. What's the main thing stopping it besides higher taxes? Any pools showing in favor for it?

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    Note that in most European countries, dental care is not (fully) covered by universal health care. Closest comes the UK, where dental care is subsidised by the NHS and patients pay £19.70 for x-rays or £53.90 for root canal treatment, but in most countries the latter will set you down several hundred euro (still much less than in the USA, but not universal health care).
    – gerrit
    Aug 4, 2016 at 17:30
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    Recommended reading: The predecessor of the Affordable Care Act, the National Health Care Act and why it was never accepted.
    – Philipp
    Aug 4, 2016 at 18:13
  • @Gerrit, wow 53.90 for a root canal? I might have to visit London most often lol. Dental is just the tip of the iceberg. Any economic statistics showing the cost of universal health care to tax payers?
    – Noah
    Aug 4, 2016 at 18:23
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    In the UK, universal health care costs 7% of GDP. Note that the US government also pays 7% of GDP for health care. Now you just have to convince seniors (largest consumers of US government healthcare) to consume less and convince doctors (and dentists) to charge less.
    – Brythan
    Aug 4, 2016 at 19:15
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    Politics. Namely, industry lobbying.
    – user1530
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:30

2 Answers 2


The simplest answer is about what the polls say; which is that many Americans do want a federally funded health insurance for all. This Gallup poll from May 2016 finds 58% in favour, inclusive of 73% of those leaning Democrat and 41% of those leaning Republican.

Why Americans object to the proposed change is more complicated, and I think this relates to the differences in attitudes between Americans and others. As was mentioned by Philipp; the National Health Care Act was sensible financially, but never got anywhere. To be explicit: America spends far more on healthcare, for a poor result, than anyone else in the world. The issue isn't that implementing a Canadian, British, or German system would be too expensive, quite the opposite. So the objection is neither pragmatic nor aspirational, it's idealistic.

That idealism stems in large part from the uniqueness of American circumstance: Americans don't often encounter alternative narratives, through the domination of their own media, the great distances between their continent and Eurasia, and the fact that most people arriving in America are doing so to assimilate into the American Dream, which creates something of a political-cultural echo chamber where political alternatives are viewed through the lens of fear, like the Red Scare, or arrogance, inspired by Manifest Destiny.

In order to try and measure this we need to examine differences in attitudes between the USA and other nations. Here is a Pew Research Center survey from April 2016. Americans are the least likely to believe that "success in life is determined by outside forces", and the most likely to believe that "hard work is very important to getting ahead in life". This helps to explain why Americans view welfare with considerable disfavour. If the consensus is that you make your own luck, failure must be due to one's choosing. According to this belief; why should one reward others laziness with generosity?

individualism poll

When it comes to the question of whether they believe the state should ensure that no one is left behind, against the choice for individuals to pursue life without state interference, Americans again are the most keen individualists.

role of the state poll

From this we start to see why the idea of government healthcare is unpalatable to so many Americans, and why distrust of the government runs so deeply. Additionally Americans may be more likely to be dismissive or ignorant of the outside world; viewing themselves as uniquely special and successful. In this case what could they learn from the rest of the world?

There are surveys to justify this argument, for example NORC/University of Chicago's National Pride 2006 paper, which found the USA to be near the top of the list. Additionally a 2015 international YouGov poll found America to be very proud of itself; this time with greater disparity between surveyed peoples.

national pride poll

To conclude, though a slight majority of Americans are in favour of a federally funded universal healthcare system, there remains strong opposition due to widespread belief in individualism, pride in their nation, and ignorance of alternatives.

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    Good answer, but I suspect you would get more upvotes / less downvotes without the "US Americans are too proud for their own good" tangent which is IMO not strictly necessary to explain why so many US Americans oppose universal health care but might offend some of them (even though I personally completely agree with it).
    – Philipp
    Aug 5, 2016 at 15:16
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    I don't think it's an unreasonable assumption to make that pride discourages curiosity. And that's part of why one would not think they have a problem when they do. Especially since such has been prominent in recent American political discourse. All the debates about "American exceptionalism" and how Americans view their neighbours ties into how they view the systems they have. I don't think we can separate pride from that equation.
    – user8398
    Aug 5, 2016 at 15:26
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    @inappropriate, I wouldn't say it's 'pride' but more rather they don't other options that exist and lobbyists and insurance companies pay millions of dollars to congressmen to make sure of it. Overall; good answer!
    – Noah
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:39

Healthcare spending is almost 20 percent of GDP, and it's expected to continue increasing. It is essentially impossible to overhaul an industry that employs 20-25 percent of the population. Socialized/Single-payer medicine could have stopped this growth, but it would have been much easier to pass when healthcare was a smaller portion of GDP.

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    Why is that essentially impossible?
    – gerrit
    Aug 4, 2016 at 18:32
  • How could it have stopped this growth? Who was going to be the single payer? Where would that money come from? Aug 4, 2016 at 19:51
  • @gerrit an overhaul at this point would require members of the healthcare industry to voluntarily vote for a government takeover. Since not all of the 20 percent are in one party, both parties are incentivized to only pass reforms that keep the industry in tact. Thus, the ACA Aug 4, 2016 at 19:55
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    @DrunkCynic the government is the single payer. They would have stopped or limited the growth by controlling prices and rationing care, as has happened in every other nation with universal healthcare. I'm not making a judgement on whether it should happen, I'm saying that's what would happen. Of course, taxpayers would pay for it. Aug 4, 2016 at 19:58
  • I think this is a decent answer. The reason is politics. The health care industry has strong reasons to keep things the way they are.
    – user1530
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:32

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