Demonstration against the privatization of the NHS
Demonstration against the privatization of the NHS

Since America was once a colony of the British, many of its legal and governmental aspects can be traced back to colonial rule of the British. These aspects bear a striking resemblance to the operations and legal aspects in the UK. However, when it comes to healthcare both the countries are poles apart. The United Kingdom offers its people a need-based, socialized and free healthcare system. The health facilities in the US are much different. The US has some government assisted programs such as Medicare but a majority of the healthcare is privatized and works on the force of supply and demand rather than the needs and requirements of the patients. In other words, healthcare is directly tied into capitalism. In this article, I will make a detailed comparative analysis of the healthcare systems of both countries and come to a conclusion based on facts and figures about which system is better and more advantageous.

In the United Kingdom, all health care services and facilities are controlled, funded and regulated by the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS is a governmental body dedicated to provide all citizens extremely affordable and nearly free health care services. The NHS makes sure that each and every citizen in the United Kingdom has unquestioned and unrestricted access to medical care and health facilities regardless of the amount of money they have in their pocket. These medical expenses are paid through the taxation system.

A dominating segment of the healthcare system in the United States is completely privatized and therefore many American citizens do not have access to free and affordable medical care and assistance. Like many industries and businesses in the US, a basic and essential need such as healthcare is also subjected to the mechanisms of capitalism. That means the private healthcare in America is subject to profit maximization, supply and demand, and other forms of capitalism.

This is the reason why American citizens increasingly rely on medical insurance to pay off their rapidly mounting medical care bills. Those who do not have insurance and are also not cared for by medicare or any form of government aid have to bear the burden of constantly rising medical care expenses without much assistance. In America, the quality of the medical care and attention you will receive depends on the amount of money you are carrying in your pocket. Quite simply, if you can pay exuberantly high and outrageously expensive rates, then you can gain access to superior quality health care and medical treatments.

Rapidly mounting healthcare bills are one of the widely occurring and majorly cited reasons of bankruptcy in the United States. As of 2009, more than 60% of bankruptcy filings in the US cited unaffordable medical bills as their primary reason for bankruptcy. While there are certain hospitals that are willing to drive down their rates and expenses, the quality of healthcare facilities and treatments they offer can be questionable and inadequate. For Americans falling ill or encountering a serious and terminal illness, it’s actually a real-life crisis. The illness will not only affect their health and vitality but also their financial independence.

Healthcare, Medicare
Total Federal Spending on healthcare and medicare.

The US Government does have some programs in place to help people with low-income seek and find healthcare. The most popular program is medicare. The US has a total federal budget of $3.8 trillion and $1.05 trillion of that goes into medicare. Before the introduction of the Affordable Healthcare Act, approximately 16% of Americans were uninsured and millions of others were under-insured. Medicare is plagued with issues and does not help everyone because they must qualify for assistance before getting aid from the government. Even after qualifying for assistance, the system is often criticized for being slow and unhelpful.

However, it would be foolish to say that the US Government does not realize the eminent and unavoidable need to address the right of American citizens to avail free and affordable healthcare services. For instance, the latest efforts carried out by President Obama have emerged as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and has been dubbed as “Obamacare”. President Obama’s efforts have been aimed to provide American citizens with great quality, affordable and reliable healthcare. For many Americans this plan does not waiver the medical bill, but rather, the medical costs are reduced to a certain extent while healthcare will continue to be exploited in the private sector. In order to further examine and analyze the in-depth effects and benefits of this plan, we must wait for it to be finished.

Quite the contrary to the American system, the United Kingdom provides universal care for all its citizens. While some patients may complain about their system, not a single British citizen has to worry about being unable to afford their medical bills. While it may be a way of life for many Americans to weigh the benefits of going to the hospital against the ramifications of possibly going broke, citizens of the UK don’t even imagine going bankrupt because of medical expenses. However, doctors in the US argue that UK healthcare services are not only outdated and low in quality, but also, their doctors and medical staff are also underpaid. I figured I would run the numbers and it turns out, US healthcare ranks a lot worse than a majority of other first-world healthcare systems.

In order to give some insight, here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote on The American Healthcare System:

“Out of 17 developed nations that were taken into consideration, the United States placed last in almost all categories in terms of health service and healthcare. Look at the statistics of how much money the United States spends on healthcare. The U.S. spends on average, 5% more of our GDP on healthcare than most developed nations. In 2010, the U.S. spent approximately $2.7 Trillion or 17.6% of its GDP on healthcare while almost every other nation was under 12%. In a majority of cases, the U.S. spent double or triple and sometimes quadruple the amount of other developed nations on healthcare per capita. That should mean that the U.S. has a huge healthcare advantage, right? Well it doesn’t.” – SciLife

UK Uncut & defenders of the NHS blocking the Westminster Bridge. They were there in protest of a pending bill in Parliament that would make sweeping changes to the National Health Service.
UK Uncut & defenders of the NHS blocking the Westminster Bridge. They were there in protest of a pending bill in Parliament that would make sweeping changes to the National Health Service.

Even though the citizens of the United Kingdom cherish their country for providing them with nearly free and increasingly affordable medical care, the socialist system is not perfect. When the National Health Service was set up in 1948 it was run by the State using taxpayers money. During the 1980s the UK Government decided to privatize the NHS. The Government knew that privatizing the NHS would be very unpopular so they decided to privatize the NHS slowly. The real reason why the NHS is not fit for purpose is because it has been privatized. The taxpayers are still paying for the NHS but now the private companies are making billions of pounds in profit for the shareholders.

“The problem is that private companies cherry-pick what they want to do. They naturally do the easy stuff, leaving the NHS with the more complicated elements that are more expensive. That can cause real problems.” – Dr Louise Irvine, of the National Health Action Party, which was set up 2012 to campaign against privatization.

In summation, the American healthcare system is not ethical. The American healthcare system takes advantage of poor people, takes advantage of capitalism, and ultimately is not efficient at all. The United Kingdom seems to have followed the mistakes that the United States made. The UK is starting to allow companies to profit from healthcare. Although the UK system may have it’s issues, I believe that it’s much better. Their system aims to take care of its people and it still does just that.

The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.The U.S. routinely ranks at the bottom of a majority of categories in healthcare when compared to other nations. Ultimately, it’s not ethical in any regard to allow health insurance companies and the healthcare system to make a profit by “selling” the health of American citizens.The UK’s system may create profit for shareholders, but it does not force its citizens to pay thousands for basic health coverage. The NHS in The United Kingdom isn’t driven by money, it’s driven by people.

For a more In-depth review of the American HealthCare System, consider reading my article on it.

For an in-depth review of Senator Bernie Sanders’ healthcare proposal, read here.

Note: Keep in mind that the healthcare system that is being proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders is not one that is related or similar to the UK system but that of Scandinavia which has an entirely different health system.

One Comment

  1. This was an interesting read. I wonder what a comparison between Scandinavian and American healthcare would be like.