The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, described universal healthcare as a powerful tool to fight inequality. Speaking at the ministerial meeting on universal healthcare conducted in Singapore, the WHO chief lauded Singapore's recently launched universal health insurance scheme, which provides nearly $3.0 billion in subsidies to help the lower-income and elderly people.
According to the WHO, a lack of universal healthcare pushes 100 million people every year below the poverty line as a result of paying for the services they need, while countries like the United States and China grapple with how to provide coverage to all their citizens. WHO director general Margaret Chan said, "Universal health coverage is one of the most powerful social equalizers among all policy options. It is the ultimate expression of fairness. Health systems will not automatically gravitate towards greater equity or naturally evolve towards universal coverage. All of these outcomes require deliberate policy decisions."
The WHO says on its website, "At least one billion people worldwide suffer each year because they cannot obtain the health services they need. About 150 million of those who use health services are subjected to financial catastrophe annually and 100 million are pushed below the poverty line as a result of paying for the services they receive."
Chan added, "At a time when policies in so many sectors are actually increasing social inequalities, I would be delighted to see health lead the world towards greater fairness in ways that matter to each and every person on the planet. The WHO defines universal health coverage as the goal of ensuring all people obtain the health services they need without suffering hardship when paying for them. It describes universal health coverage as a strong, efficient, well-run health system that combines affordability, access to essential medicines and technologies, as well as sufficient healthcare workers."