U.S. and U.K. : Comparing Health Care

Health Care Professionals

Recent events in the United States have put the topic of healthcare under a microscope in the media, and in the minds of citizens. The institution of a ground breaking law signed by President Barack Obama is the largest cause of this. In an attempt to improve healthcare, President Obama signed into law a bill that proposed penalties for those not covered by health insurance. While still somewhat in a transitional period, there can already be conclusions drawn from what we’ve seen.

Private healthcare has also been impacted in some ways by this new bill. While the price of healthcare is poised to drop slightly, private companies are offered as an option for those who are buying universal healthcare through the government. The law, which was controversial initially, has not been the dramatic setback for the U.S. that some opponents had expected

The United States’ closest ally, the United Kingdom, shows many of the same characteristics in their healthcare systems. They also have a publicly funded system that provides universal coverage and, similarly, a private system as well. However, there are some public opinion differences in the ways that the citizens feel about healthcare in their country.

Public Health Comparison

Healthcare AttorneysPublic health care in the United States has traditionally consisted of Medicare, Medicaid, and a few other groups that provide publicly funded healthcare. Medicare is the organization that provides health coverage to citizens that are 65 and older. This is paid for with taxes and doesn’t cover younger people.

Medicaid is the government service that covers low-income citizens who have children, or other dependents. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover adults without children. Additionally, many people who would be considered poor still make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. S-CHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance) provides coverage to children whose family’s make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to buy insurance privately.

The solution to the U.S’s complex and difficult to maneuver insurance system was The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The goal of this act is to provide affordable coverage for all citizens, with a catch. The catch is, you must buy health coverage or else be hit with a tax penalty. The penalty exists to coax people who don’t have coverage into buying coverage through the government’s health care marketplace. Unfortunately, there are some flaws in this system.

Although the law did make care more affordable and accessible, some of the numbers don’t work out. The penalty varies, but it is typically about 2% of the annual household income; that is, if you make the average household income. For those between the average and Poverty, it is a flat fee. Those that fall under the threshold are exempted from the penalty. In effect, the tax penalty only really hurts those that can afford private coverage; it is cheaper to just pay the penalty for everyone else.

In the UK, they have a similar system for health care. The NHS or National Health Service was launched way back in 1948 in order to provide quality care to all their residents. The benefit of this public health system is that getting care is free for anyone that is a UK resident; currently around 70 million. One statistic claims that the NHS deals with 1 million patients every 36 hours.

This system also comes with its own flaws, though. While the NHS provides a wide range of coverages to all citizens, some have cited long waiting lists and inaccessible treatment facilities as reasons to obtain private health coverage. The United States has seen similar consequences to their universal care act, although it varies depending on the coverage that you select.

Private Health Comparison

Health Industry OperatesThe majority of Americans receive health coverage through private entities. For the most part, employers offer health coverage as part of their benefits package given to salaried employees. While this covers many people, it doesn’t usually cover those that are employed part-time; they have to fend for themselves. Depending on the employer, this can be great coverage. Typically, the employer will pay part of the premium, and the employee pays the other.

In addition to employer-based insurance, there are private companies like USH Advisors that assist in the purchasing of private health care. Unfortunately, private health care can prove to be expensive, especially for those who don’t make a high salary. The benefits of private insurance are quicker and more personal care.

The establishment of the Affordable Care Act means that for those who do not make enough, health coverage should be more inexpensive to purchase. Unfortunately, it is many times more fiscally feasible to take the tax penalty and continue on uninsured. Once again, the private health system in the UK claims many of the same benefits and drawbacks as those in the U.S.

In the United Kingdom there is also the option to buy PMI or private medical insurance. While purchasing insurance this way is more expensive, it corrects some of the drawbacks of the NHS public system. Private plans mean you have the option to choose which hospitals you are covered at, and lets you control the amount of coverage you get.

For those that complain of waiting lists and less than reputable care under the NHS, private care is the other option. Private plans usually bring better service, because you get to choose where you go to get that care. Under the NHS it depends on how close you are to an institution that is associated with it.

Public Opinion

One way to measure how effective these programs are, is to take into account how the citizens of these two countries feel about their respective systems.

While the Affordable Care Act was met with contention upon its being signed into law, it has mostly seen support from the public since it has been introduced. Some technical malfunctions and questions about functionality spawned negative criticism early, but for the most part Obamacare has been effective in accomplishing some of its goals.

In a Gallup study done on how Americans feel about the state of their health care system, overwhelming majorities were satisfied with their health care options. Those who felt dissatisfied many times fall into the category of those that are uninsured. Obamacare has been responsible for curing some of the ills that were characteristic of the American health system.

Affordable coverage was typically only available to people who really had no way to pay for it; leaving out those who could use a little help receiving good medical care. With the new law, affordable care is available to everyone. In addition, it still gives Americans the option for employer-based plans or to buy a private plan.

On the outside, the United Kingdom’s public health care system seems like a nightmare. There seems to be too few doctors and hospitals available; waiting in a British hospital can take all day. However, the citizens seem to be overall very happy with how the NHS functions. It does have its issues, but it also serves a lot of people, and many people like the fact that there is a consistent pool of physicians that provide care.

Additionally, the United Kingdom like the United States still allows for private health care to be purchased. Those that are incensed by the NHS, always have the option of getting their own plan that better suits their specific needs.

The Bottom Line

The United States provides both public and private systems of health care to their citizens. While public health care has, many times, excluded large portions of the population, the affordable care act has broken down those barriers and made quality care affordable for everyone.

Also, private companies and insurers like USH Advisors make it easy to make educated decisions on what type of healthcare coverage is good for you. Plus, employer-based insurance will always cover a large majority of Americans. If anything, Obamacare has increased the patient pool for private companies. Those who don’t respect the affordable care act point to the tax penalty and their rights, but the penalty doesn’t hurt anyone that really can’t afford insurance.

In the United Kingdom public health, much maligned by the rest of the world, is beloved by a good portion of its citizens. The consistency of the NHS is something that many citizens find they can count on. Furthermore, the UK offers options for those that are not on board with the current public health system. Private health in the UK offers better service, shorter waits, and closer hospitals. Although, many are satisfied with their level of care, the dissatisfied are also given options.

Both countries show some of the same tendencies in their health systems. Their public systems tend to be more affordable and available to more people. By contrast, the care is sometimes not as high quality and it can be a bit of a wait to get cared for. Private coverage tends to be more expensive, but comes up strong in some places that public care comes up short. There will always be a conversation about which way works better or gives the best care, but there are options being given and that is the most important thing.

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About Ferland Manuel

Dr, Manuel Ferland is health care specialist,