British celebrate their health care system in London Olympics Opening Ceremony
(The Examiner) - The Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics included a visual narrative, highlighting the many accomplishments of the British people over many centuries. The story included a dramatic transition from the agrarian era to the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. Then, after a moment marking the two world wars, the ceremony included a segment celebrating the National Health Service (NHS). The British, along with almost every other industrialized country in the world, have a universal health care system, in which care is provided for all, regardless of income. Pictures of the celebration, featuring hospital beds, and thousands of actual doctors and nurses from Great Britain, can be seen above.
The scene may have been a curious sight for many Americans. If the United States hosts another Olympic games it likely will not include a celebration of private insurance, like Aetna, or any public aspects of our system, like Medicare.
The British, however, take a particular pride in their system of socialized medicine. The NHS was created in 1946, in the wake of the devastation left in Great Britain after WWII. The system is paid for mostly through a tax based on a percentage of each individual's income. On average, a Brit pays $3,129 for his health care, in American dollars. In comparison, an average American pays $7,538 for their health care, over twice as much. The British also live longer, on average (79.9 years versus 78.2 years in the United States) and have a better infant mortality rate.
This is not to say that the NHS is perfect, or that there aren't some stories of failure with individual patients just as there are in any large system dealing with over 100 million people.
Still, overall the NHS has a stellar record at providing quality care, at a low cost, for nearly every British citizen. Doctors are not paid as much in the British system, but they still make a large enough income to live comfortably, and they do not have to pay off a mountain of student loans like many doctors in the United States. British citizens do not have to worry about being excluded due to pre-existing condition. They do not have to deal with significant co-pays, deductibles, or limits on their coverage. A British citizen pays about $10 for prescription drugs, regardless of how much the drugs actually cost.
Some have compared Obamacare to the system in Great Britain, but the two systems are very different. In the British system, nearly every aspect is controlled by the government, which allows them to control costs much more effectively. Because of political realities in America, Obamacare was much more of a compromise, keeping many aspects of the private system while also implementing more government controls. Obamacare is expected to slow down the increasing rate of health care costs over time, but it will never provide care for all like the British system, and it will not lower costs down to the British level.
So years from now, we will not see an “Obamacare” celebration in an American Olympic Games. Hopefully, it does not take another world war for the United States to adopt a system similar to the NHS.