In recent years the international debate about universality in health has been marked by a polarization between ideas based on a universal system, and notions proposing universal health coverage. The concept of universal coverage has been disseminated by international organizations and has been incorporated into health system reforms in several developing countries, including some in Latin America. This article explores the assumptions and strategies related to the proposal of universal health coverage. Firstly, a comparison is provided of the models of universal health coverage and universal health systems. This is followed by a contextualization of the international debate, including examples of different health systems. Finally, the implications of the proposal of universal coverage for the right to health in Brazil are discussed. The analysis of different concepts of universality and the experiences of different countries shows that health insurance-based models, either social or private, are not as satisfactory as public, universal health systems. Greater understanding about ongoing international projects is essential in order to identify the possibilities represented by the consolidation of the Unified Health System (SUS) in Brazil, as well as the risks of dismantling the SUS.
Universal health systems; Universal health coverage; Health reforms; Right to health; Unified Health System (SUS)