In the UK, our healthcare is (largely) funded through the tax system and provided by the NHS.
But Sajid Javid does not like that. He thinks,
“government shouldn’t own all risks and responsibilities in life. We, as citizens, have to take some responsibility for our health too. We shouldn’t always go first to the state – what kind of society would that be? Health and Social Care: it begins at home. It should be family first, then the community then the state.”
What would it mean for us as individuals if we moved away from state-funded and provided healthcare towards an insurance-funded, privately-provided model like the US?
First of all, the overall cost to society would more than double: in the UK, healthcare provision costs us less than $5,000 per person; in the US, the figure is around $10,000.
That is (obviously) bad enough, but when we come to think about what it means for patients, the implications are terrifying.
Here are some typical costs for a range of treatments in the US:
$ cost without Insurance (lowest)
$ cost without Insurance (highest)
|ER (accident and emergency) visit||150||20,000|
|Labour and delivery||2,700||40,000|
|Sprained or broken ankle||300||20,000|
So, if your mother needed a cataract operation, she (or you) might need to find $10,000 to stop her from going blind. If you wanted to have a child, you would need to have put aside perhaps $12,000 (and hope you did not need a C-section). If your husband got brain cancer, you might need to sell the family home (if you own your home) to raise $100,000.
And even if you have insurance, so that you are not paying these amounts in one go, the cost is frightening. In 2019, annual premiums for health coverage for a family of four averaged $20,576 – and in addition to the premium, you also have to cover deductibles: $1,655 is the average general annual deductible for a single worker on an employer plan.
And if you have an underlying condition, you might find you cannot get coverage for it.
Consider diabetes. The BBC reports:
“This is the list of what Laura Marston has sacrificed to keep herself alive: Her car, her furniture, her apartment, her retirement fund, her dog. At 36 years old, she has already sold all of her possessions twice to afford the insulin her body needs every day. One vial of the insulin Ms Marston uses now costs $275 (£210) without health insurance.”
Many diabetics die when they cannot get insurance.
Unsurprisingly, with costs at this level, over two thirds of US personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills.
And despite the enormous costs of its healthcare system, the US has a life expectancy 3 years less than that of the UK.
Unless you are very wealthy indeed, moving to the US system could force you or your family to sacrifice your wealth, your health or both.