Actually, UK's National Healthcare Is Excellent

I'm joined today by wendell potter who is former VP of corporate communications at Cigna also author of the book deadly spin and most recently Obamacare what's in it for me what everyone needs to know about the Affordable Care Act Wendell it's great to have you back of course and you recently wrote a very interesting article talking about the United Kingdom's national health care program that they have it's a topic of much controversy it's often used by those in the US who are against any kind of government involvement in health care to point to other countries that have uh government health care programs and to talk about how poor they are the long wait times the very high cost the spending per person the high tax rates that people in those countries have as a result of these government programs you look specifically at the UK and maybe not surprisingly to some of our audience a lot of those talking points seem to not be true oh it's exactly you're exactly right David and I even mentioned in that post that during my career and the insurance industry I used to spend considerable time trying to mislead people about the national health service in the UK and the Canadian health system and other systems that were single-payer or that were very heavily regulated by the government which is just a which is every other health care system in the developed world so let's go through what we do know and and kind of these objections that become carte part part of this mantra that is against these types of programs with regard to what we hear about accessibility of care long wait times etc what's the truth about the UK NHS system well the truth is that on almost every measure of outcomes and and patient satisfaction UK is way ahead of the United States and what I wrote about in that piece was first person accounts of people who are either expats from the UK and have lived in the US or people who have dual citizenship and have used both both systems and without without any hesitation they all said that they would much rather I get through care in the UK some people said that even though they were living in the u.s. they fly back to the UK to get care for a lot of reasons one is the cost it's much less expensive in the UK and second it's far less complicated we have one of the I guess probably the most complicated healthcare systems on the planet and when we look at the the outcomes I think that this is a really interesting element because if we put aside for a second long waits in in many cases those are kind of anecdotal stories that we hear about long wait so if we put that aside for a second particularly when it appears not to be true broadly either when we look at outcomes we often hear touted that in the u.s. in spite of the fact that we have a kind of employer connected and or private insurance system is the predominant one that the the outcomes are actually better here are there some specific statistics or conditions that you can talk to us about that illustrate why that is not true well you're right the the arguments against the National Health Service that have been put out by opponents here in the u.s. are anecdotal they are anecdotes and and it they're done specifically to obscure the reality all the better outcomes the Commonwealth Fund every every year does an analysis of the health care systems around the globe and other in the developed world and they they rate them as do on various measures on outcomes on accessibility on cost among other things and last year the UK system came out well ahead of every other system and certainly well ahead of the UK system they looked at 11 countries the UK was first and the US was 11th now hopefully the US will start to climb up because we passed the Affordable Care Act and that survey or that work that was done by the Commonwealth Fund was based on the experience in 2013 and then the next year 2014 last year is fun a lot of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act kicked in but to answer your question a lot of the outcomes in the UK are much superior to ours one of the things that it's really important is excess access to primary care which is much more really available in the UK and one of the reasons why they have uh more uh they have better inform or tality statistics and longevity to statistics let's talk a little bit now if we concede temporarily even though as we know there's no reason to do this but if we were to concede that uh the uh uh with it let me reframe in a different way let's focus just on this issue of taxes right so if we can say okay we can have a system that works well that is either private insurance or government-funded we can have a system that that is that works well uh that uh is a government system where you can have either a social safety net or straight-up single-payer health care but the problem is that it's very expensive to taxpayers if we analyze that data i looked specifically at australia as well as at the UK it does not actually appear that there is a significantly higher tax burden for individuals based on having that national health care program no you're exactly right because of the efficiencies that you can get in a system that is operated largely by the government or at least financed by the government in which you can remove a lot of a hidden costs that we have in this system a lot of administrative expenses that then make our health care system the most expensive in the world we spend it's been estimated about a thirty percent of what we spend on health care is in many cases wasted or at least characterized as administrative expenses that don't have anything to do with the delivery of care so you say that money right off the bat and one of the things we that it's difficult for advocates of reform to communicate effectively to Americans is that we pay a lot in a hidden tax for the care that we that we get for the insurance that we get we tend to think that if we get our air cover for the workplace that that's our employer taking care of that but actually it's our so if you what we need to do is consider all that we spend on health care and including what we spend on premiums and we can see that it's far too far away much more than any other country spans I want to go back to something you wrote about in deadly spin and I often reference this but over the years since I've read this passage now a few years ago I forget that some of the details and I think it would be very interesting to review you wrote in the book that the u.s. at one point was actually early in the 20th century going in the direction of single-payer and if I recall correctly because it was similar to what our enemy Germany seemed to be doing there was a successful campaign mounted to oppose going in the direction of single-payer merely because it was similar to what our enemy was doing am I remembering that more or less correctly you really are in fact we have been trying to reform a health care system for more than 100 years it goes back to the administration of Teddy Roosevelt who was trying to do exactly what you described but there was a fear mongering Kane at a campaign that developed even back then to try to scare people away from from the German health care system Germany was one of the first developed countries I think it was the first in Europe to go down the path of of providing uh health care more broadly for its citizens and when we look going forward you'd know firsthand about the propaganda campaigns that have been used here in the u.s. from the poor for-profit insurers to put down the programs like that that originated in Germany uh in the UK in Australia etcetera what might get the the dialogue to change successfully in terms of having serious conversations around at national health care I mean we know that when you fairly ask individuals do you believe the government has some responsibility to provide at least basic care for everybody regardless of ability to pay that's actually very popular but when it gets wrapped in around corporate talking points is where it seems to fall apart it's exactly right corporations that offer or sell health insurance are very very profitable and they have a lot of money to invest in PR campaigns to mislead people so get to realize that's why I wrote deadly spin to explain to people how that works we've got to come up with strategies that can overcome that and I think it's possible we just have to know to start with while we're up against all right we've been speaking with former VP of corporate communications at Cigna Wendell Potter one of the books deadly spin the most recent book Obamacare what's in it for me what everyone needs to know about the Affordable Care Act thanks as always Wendell thank you David


  1. The us still has more innovation than any other country when it comes to medication , and better cancer survival rates etc

  2. The NIH in the UK. have only had one encounter with with English health care. It was splendid.
    While visiting England, i became very sick; I self-diagnosed a strep throat, went to the neighborhood clinic and waited my turn. Soon I was admitted to the exam room.
    [doctors; visits are done differently overseas] The doctor was behind his desk, and I told him my symptoms etc. He examined my throat, took my temperature, and prescribed for me. The prescription was filled right there in the clinic, with no extra problems. The entire medical encounter only took about three quarters of a hour. and only cost 8 pounds. In the US it would have taken days and even with really good insurance, cost a whole lot more jn both time and money.

  3. I just want you to have a Bernie revolution and get what we Brits have, universal health care. Seriously, I don't know how you all sleep at night for fear of getting sick. come in from the cold. Get a proper welfare state. Get universal health care ($$$ cheaper than what you're paying now), get sick pay, get paid holidays, get mobile nursing care. If you can put a man on the moon, you can do this. It's simple by comparison because you've already got a blue print to copy off.

  4. in chile i pay 300 euros monthly for my private system plan, it is indivual according to your age and your gender, plus insurances , i chose private system, i was in the public system last year but i changed it.
    imagine if i get pregnant or i have a dental problems, my plan rises its price 🙁

  5. The complexity of the system here in the US is mind numbing. While living in Japan, I was stunned at how simple it was to go to the doctor/dentist. Our system is broken and poisoned. MediCare for All is what this nation needs. All boats will rise with it.

  6. It's not perfect. Could use work.
    But it's better than most.

    And lightyears ahead of the US.

    I'll take a long wait time and taxes over bankruptcy.

  7. The NHS is the greatest thing the UK has EVER done, in the whole history of the UK. American healthcare is run as a business – money is the most important thing in American health.

    Good health is a right, not a privilege, as in America, if you can't pay then you die. In the UK, cost is irrelevant, its the medical need which is important, NOT YOUR ABILITY TO PAY.

  8. Americans seem to believe anything they are told by their politicians – I went to see a specialist on Tuesday 8th Jan 2019, as a result of that consultation he ordered an MIR scan to be done. I had the scan on Thursday 17 Jan 2019. I don't think that was a really long time to wait – oh and the whole thing didn't cost me a penny.

  9. Every country in the western world has kept expanding their analogs to FDRs New Deal. Only we are to weak to demand our politicians to keep up.

  10. I have never had a long wait on the NHS, maybe you'll have to wait a while if you're put on a waiting list for something but if you need emergancy treatment for something then you will get it stright away. I broke my arm and dislocated my elbow last year, I had to have a plate and screws put in my arm and my elbow putting back into place. They put my elbow back in as soon as I went into hospital and I had the operation first thing in the morning, I was first in the theatre. And I arrived at the hospital at around 5pm.

  11. I'm from the uk, I have a pre pay card for prescriptions, I pay about £10 a month for it. I usually get six regular prescriptions a month, no way could I afford them at the true cost. My doctors and specialists choose what to prescribe, no insurance company deciding. So far this year I've had about 15 x rays, an ecg , blood tests, got wrist splints, new custom made orthotics for my shoes, seen a physio, rheumatologist, gastroenterologist, neurologist and I'm due to see a cardiologist and have a MRI next week. I had an a&e (emergency room) visit too. The neurologist decided I needed an MRI, he didn't have to wonder if an insurance company would agree.
    People who are ill long term or say they've had a stroke and are disabled from it may lose their job, BUT they don't have a huge medical bill too! It's not perfect, but it's bloody good.
    I remember my American niece being taken ill, here she would have been taken to her own doctor, a walk in centre or a&e. What a bloody fuss and faff about…because she had her dad's navy insurance and they had to find out who took it! Absolutely crazy! She was in her home state, had she been on holiday here she could have gone to a walk in centre, doubtful they would have even bothered to bill them. Since she was a child and not a major illness. Had she got progressively worse fast I hate to think what could have happened

  12. If humans and societies were not so hell bent on spending billions on arms races, then
    perhaps, just perhaps we might be able to help each other live and achieve greater things.

  13. I am from the UK and about 10 months ago I badly broke my neck (C1-C2). I was rushed by ambulance to A&E by 2 Paramedics, on arrival I was assessed by a Doctor and sent for a CT., scan, MRI., scan and X-Ray. I was then transferred by ambulance with 2 Paramedics and a Doctor in attendance to a nearby specialist Neurosurgery centre. I had more scans, was informed I needed surgery and taken to theatre where a Halo head support was fitted. I was then admitted to a ward and given a meal and a cup of tea. This was still only about 4 hours since the accident. As an in-patient I received the best care anyone could ever ask for, from a wonderfully team of professionals. After a long stay I was transported home by ambulance. In the last few months I have had countless prescriptions (delivered to my door), out-patient app's. for more scans/ assessments, GP. app's., an Aspen neck collar fitted and lots of pyshio'. The cost of all this world class treatment? £0.


    In all this time I have not once been asked about insurance or ability to pay. I simply received what ever treatment I required. I never once worried about the cost of calling an ambulances etc.. This meant that I did not just take a couple of painkillers and go to bed, which might have lead to me being paralysed from the neck down and as such require care 24/7 for the rest of my life. (Costing a fortune). I therefore can look forward to getting out of my collar and returning to work. Once back at work, I will gladly pay my taxes to support the NHS. I know a potion of my taxes go to pay for the NHS. but the spend per capita is less than half what it is in the USA. and absolutely nobody is left out from cradle to grave. It seems to me the people who tell you public healthcare is terrible normally what to sell you health insurance. This they don't do, not for the good of their health but for vast profits. It cost us less, it's fairer and we live longer.

  14. Today in the UK, 8.9 women for every 100,000 live births die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
    In the United States, the maternal death rate averaged 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births during the years 1979–1986, but then rose rapidly to 14 per 100,000 in 2000 and 17.8 per 100,000 in 2009. In 2013 the rate was 18.5 deaths per 100,000 live births.

  15. I’m a brit, yes it’s got problems, but that’s because our Conservative party which would be you Republican Party want it privatised, but if and when that day comes ,watch the marches ,my god we think of our nhs like your rednecks think of the 2nd amendment and parties know there will be civil unrest if they introduced the shit you poor people have in the states,where only the super rich get full cover

  16. A problem we have here in America is the republicans for the most part have used Benny Hills type of looking at national health systems. or a rich guy getting private healthcare in the OTHER part of the hospital. Getting your head slapped if you look through the doorway at the private side party. compared to your long public ward type national health area with one nurse not attending to anyone. The so called doctor smoking over you and losing his watch during your surgery. They are so scared we can't even try it. Even though with all the systems we have in the world to cherry pick we should be able to make the best system ever. I do think they are starting to come around and demanding their politicians vote for a single payer system. Or at least I hope they are.

  17. The UK is NOT a country and neither does it have an NHS, it has 4 entirely different NHS's for the 4 countries

  18. I'm a Brit-American. Despite what vested interests in the US try to show, the UK's NHS is excellent.

    Single-payer is the ONLY way to go, in order to spread the risk between the healthy and the sick. Time to get the insurance companies OUT of healthcare and reign in the drug companies … all of which spend big bucks in lobbying our elected officials!

  19. from Canada : when discussing Canadas single payer system, you always focus on Toronto, our largest city, and cry foul over long wait times. well, i'm from a small city in Alberta. I wait for nothing. I have MS, which means annual MRI's, a neurologisit, a GP, who I see every 2 months.. i'm also on a med. which costs around 1500$/month. free to me.

  20. Sorry the waiting times are ridiculous, a friend of mine has been waiting for 7 months to see a musculoskeletal consultant, the NHS has been in decline since the tories have got in, they have been underfunding it for the last seven years and are trying to privatise it for self gain.

  21. I'm happy with the NHS but it is socialised health care and there are compromises and difficulties especially when its open to mass immigration.

  22. NHS. Is great…but NOT as good as it used to be…..Why? Because we are getting AMERICAN interference .But…God bless our NHS!

  23. NHS isnt excellent pretty great! but not excellent need more funding and the right wing in the UK try to privitise it, will never happen anyway people would go crazy if they did. It does need more funding and better regulation, but its better than (nothing) the US by FAR!

  24. When you introduce a 3rd party into healthcare (i.e Insurance companies) who are geared to making profit and to increase those profits these companies look to wriggle out of paying when the service they offer is needed (because they want to pay shareholders the biggest dividends possible) then you will never have equality of healthcare. In the UK we pay our taxes and the NHS deliver healthcare, there is no 3rd party looking to make money, so the outcome is cheaper healthcare. The US does have free national healthcare and it works – its called the veterans healthcare programme.

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