World Health Organization

US Sickies More Profitable than Brits


I’m happy to be upright and writing this because yesterday I wasn’t sure I had a future. I was on the fifth day of bedridden fever after suddenly being set upon by coughing fits. I’d met the virulent virus the flu vaccine didn’t touch.  For the first time, I believed the scare stories my doctor always told me about influenza: it kills. This year, the CDC reports 88 kids have died and flu season’s not over yet.  

So while I was sick I heard the President had tweeted about England’s protests he claimed were about the National Health Service going broke. He praised our wonderful healthcare system, apparently forgetting he’s tried to destroy it.

The NHS, begun in 1948, is as close as England has ever gotten to socialism. It turns out the NHS is not going broke, and the people marching weren’t protesting the NHS, much beloved and rated highly around the world. Its workers were demanding more pay.

Here’s how NHS works, according to Jim Edwards, a Business Insider writer with dual citizenship, who has lived in both the US and England for years, and used both systems. In England, you call the doctor, they make your appointment, you come in and the doctor sees you, right on schedule.  There’s little paperwork and you pay: zero.

Well, actually you pay, he says, but through your taxes. The tax rates in England are similar to the US—but in England you get free healthcare in return, whereas in the US you pay taxes PLUS you then have to buy private health insurance, which may or may not pay for what you need. There’s maddening paperwork, impossible to understand. Uncovered medical costs remain the leading reason for US bankruptcy.

One other detail?  According to the World Health Organization, the average cost per Brit patient is $3480. Here in the US, our cost per patient is $8362.  Is that because of substandard care? No, it turns out the Brits live longer than we do—maybe because they’ve decided they’re better off united, especially when sick.

A postscript:  in 2009, when Obama was trying to pass the Affordable Care Act, Rick Scott, a multimillionaire hospital-chain CEO who’d made a fortune by defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, sponsored an ad campaign to convince Americans the Brits were dying because of their horrible socialized medicine. He then ran for governor of Florida as a “healthcare reformer,” steadfast against Medicaid expansion—the nasty public insurance that had caught him stealing red-handed.

—Rickey Gard Diamond