What is really going on at the essence of the universal health care discussion in the United States? How come the most powerful nation on Earth, by military and economic standards, is not able to provide health care to all its citizens? To find answers, we must look beyond the sickening party politics and the chaotic legislation that shapes American Health Care. Right now, the politicians are not even reading the legislation that they are either supporting or attacking, on both sides of the aisle; it’s just a competition about who wins the argument: Democrats or Republicans. The millions affected by all this have been set aside.

In essence, the issue should be simple: if everybody pays a little bit, everybody is entitled to a little bit of health care. That’s how it works everywhere on the planet, except in the US. The core discussion is then: how much does each person have to pay, and how much coverage does everybody get? Everybody gets coverage, but maybe not a first class suite on the best hospital in Houston to have plastic surgery on your ear lobes.

Behind all the rational analysis of the myriad of options available, it gets down to culture values and the emotions attached to them. It is not really much of a surprise that the culture on Earth with the highest score on Individualism, combined with a clear preference for Performance over Caring (as measured statistically by Hofstede’s culture value-dimensions), becomes polarized around an issue that, primarily, is about individuals chipping in for the collective.

The problem with culture values is that they are closely linked to strong emotions, since they originate in early childhood, when we all learn what is considered “right” and “wrong” in our families and communities. Anything that challenges those deeply seated values elicits a strong emotional reaction, in every culture.

So when somebody in America proposes something that appears to threaten individual freedom and responsibility, such as Universal Health Care (take care of each other, not just of yourself), Socialist public policies (the common good is more important than individuals), or gun control (the State interferes with the individual freedom to have weapons of choice), it’s only natural that people may get upset and emotional about these things: they appear to threaten their core values and that is something very difficult to cope with.

I once met a young American woman at an international event, just after Obamacare had begun implementation. When I asked her: “how’s it going in the States, now that you have Universal Health Care?” She gave me a five-minute angry speech about how it all sucked, for one big reason: she would now have to pay an additional $150 per month out of her hard-earned salary so that other people would be covered by health care.

In any other culture, this would not be considered a valid argument. Basically, everybody says: “Sure! That’s just how it is! It’s like taxes: you pay a bit from what you earn, so that everybody can have public services, like roads, police… and also health care.” In the US, however, the thinking is more like: “I need to take care of myself and everybody should be capable of taking care of themselves.” As Margaret Thatcher so pointedly summarized: “there is no such thing as ‘society;’ everyone should take care of themselves!”

Indeed, the value-dimension of Individualism versus Collectivism can be seen as an unconscious dilemma that every society needs to solve: do we go towards one side of this polarity or should we tend towards the opposite? The statistical research studies carried out by Hofstede revealed that a few cultures tend towards Individualism, while most others go in the opposite direction, towards Collectivism.

Still, even those countries with similar statistical scores as the US (such as the UK and Australia, recently praised by Ivanka’s Dad) all have Universal Health Care; they managed to find a way around the issue, despite their belief in meritocracy and in individual responsibility. After all, scoring high in Individualism does not preclude cooperation and solidarity. Teamwork and collaboration are possible in every culture, but they express themselves in different ways. In collectivistic cultures teamwork comes naturally, while taking individual responsibility requires extra effort. In America it is teamwork that requires the extra effort, especially if there is not a clear short-term goal to be achieved. Individual responsibility comes naturally, it is almost taken for granted as a given. Will the US ever find their path, to having UHC without feeling that it hurts some people’s core values?

Perhaps they might, if they are able to simplify the overall issue. Right now people are discussing too many details in terms of what kind of coverage are certain groups entitled to, depending on age group, whether they are Federal Employees or not (shockingly, congressmen have legislated in their own benefit, ensuring they themselves get coverage, while millions of others do not), depending on where they live and what kind of work they do. Maybe it would be easier if UHC were to be funded by a blanket 1-percentage point increase in income taxes, for instance, rather than by singling out a specific contribution to medical assistance. If it’s embedded in your overall taxes, people tend not to argue.

If taxes were broken down into the different items they are destined to fund, we would see a lot of arguments about certain topics that do not bring benefit to certain individuals. Should single adults with no kids pay for public schools? Should people who live in farms pay for funding of large urban centers’ infrastructure? If I never use public transport, why should I subsidize railroads? As soon as you single out a collective benefit (like UHC) you will get some people objecting: “I don’t need that, why should I pay for it?” Yet the building blocks of any society rely on finding a balance between individual interests and collective ones. Each culture finds its own balance; America is still trying to find it regarding UHC.

The puzzle will only be solved if people look at the overall forest, not at the trees (or groups of trees). Obamacare was a bit of a Frankestein monster, too complicated and difficult for everyone involved. The Republican alternative appears to be even worse, arguably. Perhaps Congress needs to scrap all of it, and come up with something simple, elegant and truly universal. If the Aussies did it, surely America can do it too: just forget about partisan squabbling for a minute and look at what needs to be done for the overall population.