Alternate title: Wendell Potter's urgent warning to the Brits: You don't want USA style pay or die healthcare
As David Cameron, the newly elected British Prime Minster is gangbusters to institute reform of many cherished British institutions, our friend, ally, and fellow Kossack Wendell Potter is warning the Brits not to allow right wing ideologues in Britain to privatize, Americanize and destroy vital public services such as health care.
Wendell was asked by Channel 4 news in the U.K. to write an essay about why the United Kingdom should steer very clear of any U.S type makeover of their healthcare system. He had plenty to say.
In his piece, NHS Reform: Don't follow the U.S. Example, Wendell explains how and why going down our uniquely American path would lead to catastrophe.
But David Cameron, the British Prime Minister is a free market zealot. He is contemplating Americanizing, which is tantamount to destroying, some pieces of their beloved NHS. As we know, privatization and replacing the health needs of the populace with the profit needs of the free market, would be an unmitigated disaster and Wendell explains why.
As someone who knows firsthand how the profit motive can wreck a healthcare system - leaving millions of people without coverage and millions of others unable to pay for care even if they do have insurance - I was alarmed to learn about the reforms to the NHS that Prime Minister David Cameron is advocating.
As Channel 4's recent investigation revealed, those reforms could very easily incentivize GPs to make decisions based on profits instead of clinical need.
To understand how devastating that could be to the people of England, all one has to do is look at the American healthcare system.
But what's most disturbing about all this, is that a new study from the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, shows that from birth to death, at every stage of life, Americans are way less healthy then their British counterparts.
From birth through old age, Americans have poorer health than their British counterparts, a new study finds.
Researchers used data on nearly 40,000 residents of the United States and 70,000 residents of England taken from nationally representative health surveys of the respective countries.
After all the numbers were crunched, Americans had higher rates of nearly all chronic diseases and markers of diseases than people of a similar age in England.
Those diseases and signs of poor health included: obesity, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high overall cholesterol, high C-reactive protein (a sign of inflammation), diabetes and asthma.
. . .Taken together, the worse health of Americans by nearly every measure should be a wake-up call for the public and policymakers, said study author Melissa Martinson, a postdoctoral research associate in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University.
"Across most of these markers of health, Americans fare worse than the English, and the health differences are just as large at very young ages as they are later in life," Martinson said.
Esteemed doctors are warning that privatization which would lead to the private hospitals "cherrypicking" the healthiest and leaving the sickest to the tattered remains of the NHS, would return the nation to 1930s healthcare.
This should sound very familiar to most Americans.
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA’s hospital consultant committee, said proposed changes would create an “increasingly tattered safety net” for people suffering from complex illnesses such as heart failure, diabetes or obesity.
He claimed that for patients in some parts of the country, care would return to “what we thought we had left behind when we founded the NHS in 1948”.
Private healthcare firms could “cherry pick” patients with the simplest conditions to treat while local hospitals could face closure if they are forced to compete with independent, profit-driven healthcare providers, he said.
This would leave the NHS as a “provider of last resort” for patients denied treatment by private practises because their conditions are too expensive to deal with.
And as we Americans spend more than any other industrialized nation, we continue to have among the worst health outcomes. The authors of this study were particularly shocked to see how Americans fare relative to the British who are considered among the least healthy European cohort.
The worse health comes in spite of consuming far more health-care dollars than other countries, according to Mauricio Avendano, a research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial.
Americans make up just 5 percent of the world's population, yet they represent more than half of every medical dollar spent on the planet, Avendano said.
And all that money isn't doing them as much good as one might think it would. American life expectancy is near the bottom of rankings that include European nations, he explained.
It's especially notable that this paper compared Americans to people in England, who are considered among the least healthy Europeans, Martinson said.
This study goes on to postulate why our health and life expectancy outcomes are so dismal.
Certain aspects of American labor markets and social policy may matter just as much or more. American workers generally have less protection from losing their jobs, and when they do, they get lower unemployment benefits. Americans can expect unemployment benefits to replace 48 percent of lost wages compared to 78 percent in the United Kingdom, 81 percent in Germany and 95 percent in Sweden, according to the editorial.
Women in the United States get no or only limited paid maternity leave, while women in the United Kingdom get more than nine weeks, French women get 47 weeks and Swedish women get 62 weeks, the editorialists noted.
The United States also has higher poverty rates, they added. Among children, for instance, in 2005, 21 percent of children in the United States lived in poverty, compared with 10 percent in the United Kingdom, 4 percent in Sweden and 8 percent in France.
The relative weakness of the U.S. social safety nets may mean less security and more stress, and that can also take a toll on health, Avendano suggested.
One of the first health services to fall to privatization could be the blood and transplant divisions.
There's talk of privatizing theNHS Bood and Transplant services.
And every warning comes with the horrifying admonition, we don't want to turn into the United States.
He warned that the UK’s healthcare system could resemble the United States where there are “quite big geographical disparities” in the care available and where “tens of millions of people can’t get access to high-quality treatment”.
So let's recap. Nobody wants what we have.
We have a totally broken system, it is by no means the best in the world. It is the most expensive in the world. And tragically the Patient Protection and Affordable care Act, is precisely what Wendell calls it, The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.