Ten reasons we shouldn’t look to America for healthcare advice

13th April, 2009 11:38 am

UK NHS

By Theo Blackwell

A rejoinder: Conservative representative Dan Hannan recently disparaged the National Health Service on Fox Television in the U.S. On April 6th he went even further on his blog, warning Americans (or those of them who read his Telegraph blog) not to copy the British system.

Alan Johnson responded to Hannan’s Fox interview defending the NHS for Labour here on LabourList. But he didn’t go far enough in my view. More than ever people in the UK need to be reminded of the essential unfairness of the American insurance-based system, along side the merits of our own NHS.

The U.S. spends more on health care than other industrialised country, but the actual use of health services is lower. This is because healthcare is used more expensively, by fewer people.

The NHS, like anything created by human hands, isn’t perfect – but the U.S. model has serious flaws.

Yes I’ve seen the U.S. health care system work well for those who can afford it, but I’ve also seen how it caused real worry for those facing extra bills and panic for families who can’t afford cover.

As an American myself, I’ve witnessed all aspects of this in my own family.

If we want to go down the route of the U.S. healthcare system then here are some facts (just regarding people of working age and children) that the ‘Hannan-right’ should have should have in mind before they start on the journey of ‘creative destruction’ on the NHS:

1. There are lots of uninsured people in America.
Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 per cent of the population under the age of 65, lacked health insurance in 2007 according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008).

2. Children too.
The number of uninsured children in 2007 was 8.1 million – or just over one in ten children in the U.S. (U.S Census Bureau 2008).

3. Young people more so. 28 per cent of 18-24 years old have no cover. (U.S Census Bureau 2008).

4. The number of uninsured rose exponentially under the Republicans (the right is no friend of universalism). The ranks of the uninsured increased by almost 8 million people from 2000-2007. (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

5. Health cover is also sporadic. Nearly 90 million people – about one-third of the population below the age of 65 spent a portion of either 2006 or 2007 without health coverage. 29 per cent of people with coverage were “underinsured”, that is their coverage was so poor that they chose to postpone care. (Consumer Reports, 2007)

6. Having a job helps, but is no guarantee for health cover. In 2007, 37 million workers were uninsured because not all businesses offer health benefits, not all workers qualify for coverage and many employees cannot afford their share of the health insurance premium even when coverage is easy to access. (U.S Census Bureau 2008).

7. It’s both a working class and middle class concern too.
Nearly 40 per cent of the uninsured population live in households earning 50,000 dollars or more – £37,000. (U.S Census Bureau 2008).

8. It’s worse in a recession. If your coverage is dependent on employment. Losing you job, or going part-time or self-employed as part of a restructuring can often mean less coverage. Today 9 million fewer Americans have health coverage due to the recession. (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

9. For the poorest triage in the A&E is often the only way.
20 per cent of uninsured say their usual source of care is the ‘ER’ or emergency room.

10. It costs lives and money.
According to the Institute of Medicine an estimated 18,000 uninsured adults between the ages of 25-64 die each year, more than the figure for diabetes, a serious health problem in the U.S. and an emerging one here, in the same age group. The uninsured are more likely to be hospitalised for an avoidable condition, with the average cost of an avoidable hospital stay estimated to be around 3300 dollars, or about £2400 – can you take that on your monthly paycheck?

I could give you far more if you want figures on older people and care.

Conservative policy makers would do well to consider these facts before following the Americans in their healthcare model, or attacking our NHS.

Latest

  • Comment Featured Uncategorized As the dust settles on the vote for Brexit, it is time to reach out to our democracy’s missing millions

    As the dust settles on the vote for Brexit, it is time to reach out to our democracy’s missing millions

    At a critical point in the development of the Labour party leadership, this article offers a few thoughts on a future Labour agenda for democratic reform that transcends internal politicking. After four years of working at Bite The Ballot, a party-neutral youth democracy movement – and one that unites decision-makers of all persuasions in its work – I can say that British politics still has a long way to go on the road to democratic renewal. Though the pieces are still […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured We must bring politics back to our communities rather than leave people to rely on Westminster “elites”

    We must bring politics back to our communities rather than leave people to rely on Westminster “elites”

    All told, it’s not been a good few months for the standing of our politicians. Whether you think there was a good case to have a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU or not, the reason we were all put through it was ultimately one of internal Conservative party management. A fundamental question about who we are as a nation and how to best represent our interests was embarked upon because David Cameron thought it was his best […]

    Read more →
  • News Kinnock: Labour must show that its socialism can “work in practice”

    Kinnock: Labour must show that its socialism can “work in practice”

    Neil Kinnock has criticised “ideological flights of fancy”, and said that Labour needs to show that socialism can “work in practice” before it can be successful. The former leader has said that winning parties have to be “professional” as well as having a “sense of belief”, and launched a strong attack on “career politicians”. “You can enchant people by ideological flights of fancy, but that’s not going to help them at all,” Lord Kinnock told BBC programme Conversations this week. He said […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Wayne David: Top-down change no longer works – we must boost democracy from the ground up

    Wayne David: Top-down change no longer works – we must boost democracy from the ground up

    If we are serious about extending political engagement and closing the gap between people and politics, Labour needs to do two things. Firstly, we need to have a coherent and powerful narrative about bringing power closer to the people. And secondly, we need to have a series of practical proposals to make the political process more accessible and relevant to people. Even though Labour was the party which introduced devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and recently favoured “permissive” […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn campaign looks to mobilise thousands in the North

    Corbyn campaign looks to mobilise thousands in the North

    Thousands of Corbynistas are expected to turn out to back the leader at a series of rallies in the North of England organised by Momentum. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign hopes that events in York, Leeds, Hull and Liverpool over the weekend will mobilise large numbers of the grassroots membership as he aims to replicate the successful nationwide speaking tour of last year’s contest. Corbyn will be joined by fellow core MP supporters Richard Burgon and Imran Hussain as well as local councillors in […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit