God Bless America -- But Give Me The British NHS Any Day

As an Englishman who has lived for the last three decades in America, "The Greatest Country that Has Ever Existed Anywhere," I spend a lot of time pointing out that actually many countries do many things far better. Electing politicians is simpler, more democratic, and less corrupt in dozens of Western countries. No other civilized country on earth imprisons so many people and none have so much crime. Alternative energy has been developed and used more efficiently in other countries. Other countries are far less polluting. High school maths and science education is better in more than 20 other countries.

Michael Moore has just released a film, "Where Shall We Invade Next" that makes these kinds of points. I hope he has some success. I rarely have. The propaganda -- commercial, military, and religious -- is so overwhelming that Americans usually laugh. "America is God's own country and the greatest country on the face of this..." etc.

Perhaps the most chilling failure in America -- still, even after Obamacare -- is the healthcare system. So to be back in the UK for a few days and to hear people yet again talking about destroying or diminishing the National Health Service is simply agonizing. Just as I've advised Americans in the past to look elsewhere to learn lessons in success, I would urge the British to look to America to learn lessons in failure.

The equation is so incredibly simple that even given all of the propaganda, Americans are looking to change it entirely and move closer to a British system, hence the surprising success, in part, of Bernie Sanders. People live less long in America. NOTHING works in the American healthcare system unless you are rich. It is more expensive and less effective than the British system. In a privately run corporation, whether it is an insurance company or a hospital, you serve two masters -- or more accurately one master and many slaves -- with completely opposite requirements. The definition of economic success is profit. Wall Street demands it. How do you make a greater profit? By bringing in more money and spending less. In the case of health insurance companies this means that a CEO who can extract as much money from the "slaves" (the policy holders) and deliver as little as possible in return is deemed a success. The executives in these companies who are best at denying healthcare to those who have paid for it are so excessively rewarded that this is in itself a drain on the whole system. Who in the NHS gets paid 40 million dollars a year and receives a 100 million dollar retirement scheme? In America, this happens. This and far worse.

Insured people who become unprofitable (because they are really sick) are purged, kicked out, their bills not paid, often on the basis of some minor inaccuracy in the lengthy and complex policy application form. There is a known policy in health insurance companies, "Delay, Deny, Defend." Delay responding to the bill, Deny it, and then if the person fights it, Defend yourself in court. Even if you don't win, and assuming the patient doesn't die before the case is ended, you break him or her through legal costs which sends a warning to anyone else who might try the same thing. A simple trip in an ambulance can cost many thousands of dollars. A stay in a hospital can result in a bill so crushing that if a health insurance company finds a way to dodge it (this is assuming you even have insurance) you become more or less instantly homeless. I do not exaggerate. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (2008), half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are caused by problems with the healthcare system -- and homelessness is a huge problem in America, despite throwing so many of the desperate into prisons. According to the US Bureau of Justice, 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in US federal and state prisons, and county jails in 2013 - about 1 in 110 of U.S. residents.

Important Note: many of these prisoners are mentally ill and this is the treatment they receive under a privatized system. And this system is what the British public are being told they should want?

Take it from one who lives in "The Greatest Democracy in the, etc, etc..." be smart. Spend ten minutes looking at America even after Obamacare, watch Michael Moore's "Sicko", or read "Deadly Spin" by Wendell Potter, who worked for several health insurance companies at a high level until disgust at the system drove him to write a book revealing the truth behind the ads. You do not want to go down this road. It is a road paved with gold for those who run the companies and a road to hell for everyone else. If there are problems with the NHS, pay a little more in taxes to improve it. In the long run it will be infinitely cheaper for you than the alternative.