Americans pay $10,000 a year on healthcare on average, double what the UK government pays for each of its citizens. You’d think that doubling the spending would also double the quality, but far from it. In fact, the reverse is true.
People living with the brutal reality of the American healthcare system on a day to day basis may be resigned with the situation. However, it’s worth noting that free, accessible, and quality healthcare is the norm in many developed countries. A viral video that interviewed random Brits on the street about US healthcare is representative in this respect — just take a look at their shocked replies.
“10 GRAND?! For a baby?” one British woman gasped during the interview. Actually, in some situations, it can be as much as $100,000, as a northern Virginia woman learned the hard way. According to the BBC, her largest expenses were:
Hospital stay for 30 days: $67,375
Ultrasounds: $1,200-$1,600 each
Blood tests: $750-$959 each
For comparison, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William’s wife, delivered her baby in a private room in St. Mary’s Hospital’s Lindo Wing. Some of the perks she enjoyed was an “en suite” bathroom, a refrigerator, and a menu of “nutritious” meals. This ‘luxurious’ birth cost $8,900, which is much more than most Brits will be billed, but still well below what virtually anyone in the USA expects to pay.
Delivering a child in Spain costs about $1,950. In Australia, the price is around $5,000, and even in Switzerland, a notoriously expensive country, it’s under $8,000.
What’s more, if Kate and William had regular jobs, they would be entitled to 37 weeks of paid parental leave and up to 50 weeks of unpaid leave. American workers have no national paid family leave policy and no national mechanism to help parents stay afloat financially after bringing a child to the world.
“Is there a price for that?” asked one interviewee when asked how much calling an ambulance costs in the US (it is free in the UK). When informed it can cost as much as $2,500, the British man was left speechless.
“Shut the fridge!” was a woman’s reaction when she was told that two EpiPens cost $600 (free in the UK).
The video soon went viral after it made the rounds on Twitter, with NY congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeting: “To our friends in the UK: please cherish, protect, & continue investing in your healthcare system! Once Big Pharma & special interests get their hands on it, it could take generations to regain. Millions of people in the US are fighting to have a system half as good as the NHS.”
Despite healthcare costing so much — enough to push people into bankruptcy — many Americans do not enjoy premium services. In a 2017 analysis of 11 rich, Western countries by the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. came in last in terms of health system performance. The U.K. came in 1st.
Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator, also commented, saying: “Remember that our outrageous for-profit system is not the norm in other countries. We can and we must do better. We need Medicare for All now.”
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.