Here is the paragraph in which "the very idea" occurs:

"Universal basic health care is sensible in the way that, say, universal basic education is sensible—because it yields benefits to society as well as to individuals. In some quarters the very idea leads to a dangerous elevation of the blood pressure, because it suggests paternalism, coercion or worse. There is no hiding that public health-insurance schemes require the rich to subsidise the poor, the young to subsidise the old and the healthy to underwrite the sick. And universal schemes must have a way of forcing people to pay, through taxes, say, or by mandating that they buy insurance."

[Bold emphasis added.]

SOURCE: The Economist: "Universal health care, worldwide, within reach," 26 April 2018 issue.

Can someone explain what the phrase means here?

  • 1
    It means "the mere idea"
    – Centaurus
    Apr 28, 2018 at 1:20
  • Does it mean an incorrect medical consultation? My question is why does it lead to the elevation of the blood pressure? Is it because of medical paternalism?
    – Bakebake
    Apr 28, 2018 at 1:29
  • @Bakebake "because it suggests paternalism, coercion or worse."
    – Aaron
    Apr 28, 2018 at 1:35
  • 2
    Try replacing it with “just thinking about it
    – Jim
    Apr 28, 2018 at 3:50

2 Answers 2


"The very idea" is used to place emphasis on the subject. In this context, merely thinking about the concept of universal basic health care is enough to raise one's blood pressure, as opposed to debating it, implementing it, utilizing it, etc.


In this context "The very idea" means "the same idea" or "this (just mentioned) idea". In general "The very idea" means just an idea of smth. See Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English / very / collocations.

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