Healthcare in Great Britain vs. Healthcare in the USA: Part One
Not long ago I sat down with Chris Smyth, a health journalist for The Times of London, who was traveling in the US to research American healthcare. Meanwhile, I have made several trips to the UK to report on the British system. So we had plenty to discuss.
When Smyth and I started talking, we realized that, regarding healthcare, there were points of difference between the two countries, but many similarities, too. Both struggle with increasing costs of care; both have embarked on programs to make care better; both have instituted reforms that keep within the boundaries of their systems—a national health service in Britain, in which everyone is covered as a matter of right, and a private healthcare market in the US, with reforms and subsidies meant to insure more Americans, though millions will still be without insurance. The following is part one of an edited version of our conversation (part two will run tomorrow).
The view from across the pond
Trudy Lieberman: Americans have a very bad image of British health care. They believe it’s rationed; people can’t get want they need or want. The British view of the American system, meanwhile, is like the American view of the English system, for very different reasons. Last year a woman in Blackpool told me, ‘We would never want to go to the American system, where you ration care and nobody gets what they need.’
Chris Smyth: That’s the thing that’s struck me when comparing the reform debates in the two different countries. In Britain, the only thing anyone can agree on is, ‘We don’t want to become like the American system—That’s awful.’ And in America, people agree, ‘We don’t want to be anything like the British system because that’s awful.’ Perhaps each side really doesn’t know much about the system they’re so scared of.
TL: People in America do not understand social insurance and what it is and does. They don’t understand that social insurance can mean a single payer or multiple payers, but that everyone pays into the system and everyone receives care. They like Social Security and Medicare—those programs are very popular—but it’s popularity without the real understanding that these are social insurance systems.
Is that the case in England, where the National Health Service (NHS) is popular, but people don’t understand it?