THE BLOG
18/11/2013 07:44 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

America Needs Britain's National Health Service

As a British citizen, it's sad to see Obamacare hopelessly floundering. When Obama triumphantly signed the Bill into law in 2010, it's doubtful that even he could have imagined how his Administration-defining Affordable Healthcare Act would become such a cancer on America. First, the bill caused a government shutdown. Second, the healthcare marketplace website has been a disaster with only 100,000 Americans managing to sign up for a plan by mid-November. And now Obama's approval ratings are plummeting as he becomes embroiled in allegations that he mislead on his pledge to let Americans keep their healthcare plan if they liked it.

But all of this partisanship, incompetence and scandal actually is just a distraction and misses the point. While politicians posture, websites crash and 24hr news endlessly debate whether Obama lied, millions of Americans still don't have the health insurance they deserve and millions more remain uninsured and are playing Russian Roulette with their lives.

Being uninsured or bearing un-affordable healthcare costs is something almost incomprehensible to someone living in Britain. Before we look at how good or bad the National Health Service is it's important to look at it from a basic human level. A paper written by some very smart people from the London School of Economics, highlighted that only about five percent of people living in Britain said they faced financial barriers to getting healthcare. In America, that figure is a third. This is a staggering statistic. It is well known that financial worries cause the most stress to people and their families. It's one thing to worry about paying off a credit card after a post Thanksgiving Black Friday spree but another to worry about finding the money to pay medical bills for your child, partner or parent to keep them healthy. Really think about that for a second. This is a sad reality faced by all too many Americans and I don't know how they cope and survive, I really don't. I also can't understand how members of Congress can sleep at night knowing that this happens every single day in America.

This brings us on to the debate about how good the care is on Britain's National Health. Of course, it's not perfect and Britain's national obsession is finding faults with it, but if you just ignore the scare stories and former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan's lies, you might be surprised.

Using data collected by the Commonwealth Fund and the OECD from 14 high income countries like Australia, France and America, Britain's National Health Service came first in seven of 22 categories and in the top three in 13 measuring healthcare performance. For example, the NHS did well in things like coordinating tests and records, low rates of errors and preventative care for things like diabetes. The NHS showed average performance for wait times for appointments with doctors and specialists and let's be honest, it did badly in 5 categories, one being the five year survival rate for breast cancer - which prompted a nationwide cancer plan to tackle it that is now delivering results.

So, like every health system the NHS has strengths and weaknesses but by international comparison, far from being a failed socialist experiment, it is actually performing remarkably well. And all of this while America spends double per head what most other high income countries do on healthcare which is an indication of just how drastically inefficient it is. Also, in a rather delicious twist, it means that if America's health costs were like Britain's they could give over $4000 back to each person, which is about the cost of Obamacare's silver healthcare coverage plan. To coin a famous movie line, how do like them apples Congressman Ryan?

But if we ignore my friendly jibe at Congressman Ryan, there is a very serious point that America must face if it is to solve the healthcare problem once and for all - the big question of what is government for? We have witnessed Congress pass laws giving wide ranging powers to the Federal Government to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks, but the same Congress is not willing to enact common sense reforms, based on the facts, to protect its citizens from ill health, which is a far bigger threat to life than terrorism has ever been. If Obamacare fails, as now looks likely to happen, I hope that America's political leaders will lose their moral hypocrisy, stop the socialist hysteria on the role of the Federal Government and look at Britain's National Health Service for inspiration. And if they do that, this might put them back on the path to clearing their collective guilty conscience.