During his hotly-protested state visit to the UK, US President Donald Trump let slip his plans for the NHS. He revealed that the privatisation of Britain’s publicly funded health service would be “on the table” during post-Brexit trade talks. Both Conservative and Brexit Party officials have indicated their support for a privatised NHS. Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a strong objection to the President:
Theresa May stood next to @realDonaldTrump as he said the NHS will be "on the table" in a US trade deal. And that’s what Tory leadership contenders and Farage are lining up for the No Deal disaster capitalism plans they have.
They all need to understand: our NHS is not for sale.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 4, 2019
Here’s what healthcare could cost you if Corbyn’s warning goes unheeded.
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The cost of privatised healthcare
The influential Peter G. Peterson Foundation in the US makes the point succinctly:
The rising cost of healthcare is one of the key drivers of our growing national debt, which crowds out important investments in our future economy, including priority areas like education, research, and development, and infrastructure.
Although the United States spends significantly more per person on healthcare than other industrialized nations, our health outcomes are no better — and often worse.
According to the most recent Milliman Medical Index, the most common health plan offered by employers to a typical American family of four costs an average £22,163 per year. These costs are so astronomical, most people simply can’t afford them. So on average, employers pick up over 70% of the bill (based on 2016 figures). This means that if a person loses their job, they and their family also lose access to healthcare.
Without insurance, here are the costs for common services:
*childbirth data via The Economist
Many Brits also rely on the NHS for mental health services. A recent case from the US is reason for caution. A 21-year-old required a week-long stay in an Oklahoma hospital after attempting suicide this year. He was charged over $93,000 (£73,000). He shared his bill on social media, only to find many others with similar issues. One commenter wrote:
In 2017 I was in the psych ward cause I was suicidal. I stayed a weekend. I’m now 10k in debt.
Why is the NHS in crisis?
The answer is simple. The government chose to underfund the service, providing it with less money than it required. And the resulting crisis was entirely predictable. Responding to the government’s 10-year budget forecast in 2015, The King’s Fund warned:
The ten years up to 2020/21 are likely to see the largest sustained fall in NHS spending as a share of GDP in any period since 1951…
As a result the NHS is struggling to meet its obligations to patients.
What makes this all the more unnecessary is that the funds the NHS requires are entirely affordable. In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund still judged the NHS to be the best healthcare system in the world, and the most cost effective too.
The secret to a decent NHS
The UK has a GDP (amount of wealth we produce each year) of over £2tn a year. The NHS costs us just £150bn. UK citizens pay less money, for better care, than in almost any other healthcare system in the world.
Right now, the NHS is suffering a crisis manufactured by those seeking to profit from its decline. It allows politicians and the media to scapegoat patients, staff, and the concept of the NHS itself, rather than take responsibility for a crisis of their own making.
Some argue we can’t afford to keep the NHS. The truth is, we can’t afford not to.
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