On which side of the pond is the grass greener?

As the U.K. is contemplating privatizing the NHS, we’re moving toward a national healthcare system. It all makes me wonder: On which side of the pond is the grass greener?

August6th,2013
Amy Swinderman
A funny thing happened to Lloyd Dunlap, one of ourcontributing editors, this month as he worked on "U.K.'s Department of Healthlaunches DNA mapping effort," a story you can read in our 'Omics & SystemsBiology section on page 24. Lloyd's story reports that the United Kingdom'sDepartment of Health has launched an effort called Genomics England that aimsto achieve a better understanding of cancer, rare and infectious diseases. ToLloyd's surprise, one thing he learned in the course of reporting the story wasthat the launch of Genomics England comes at the same time that some Britishgovernment leaders are facing backlash over their attempts to privatize theNational Health Service (NHS)—you know, the U.K.'s globally admired publichealthcare system that provides a comprehensive range of health services to residentsfor free (well, sort of; until you count the taxes that make the whole thingpossible, anyway).
 
Is Jolly Old England changing its tune when it comes to itspublicly funded healthcare system—the largest and the oldest single-payer healthcaresystem in the world, which has provided the majority of primary care,in-patient care, long-term healthcare, ophthalmology and dentistry in Englandfor six decades? It seems so, as a recent investigation by the British medianews organization The Guardian foundthat "at least a dozen NHS hospital trusts are technically bankrupt, with nochance of meeting a legal obligation to balance their books." The root of theproblem seems to be multifaceted, with healthcare reform, epidemics likeobesity and diabetes and rising equipment costs all being cited as contributingto the problem.
 
 
"Privatization of the NHS is but ONE of the necessary stepsthat next government will have to undertake to bring public spending undercontrol, as the consequences of not doing so will be for a decade or more ofeconomic depression under a continually escalating debt mountain that the countrywill increasingly find painful to service in terms of interest payments,"argues The Market Oracle, a websitethat provides financial-market forecasting and analysis.
 
 
As Lloyd and I pondered this strange news, he reminded me, "Asthe U.K. is contemplating privatizing the NHS, we're moving toward a nationalhealthcare system."
"As my grandfather used to say, 'Everything goes insickles,'" Lloyd joked.
 
 
Ah, yes, how could I forget? Every major news organizationin the country has been running headlines about the looming enrollment periodfor the so-called Obamacare healthcare exchanges, set to open Oct 1. Heardabove the very loud din from every corner of the political arena have beenclaims from state officials that these exchanges will send health insurancecosts soaring. Here in Ohio, where DDNEWSis headquartered, state officials have been predicting that the average cost ofhealth insurance will increase by 41 percent for state residents. Not so, someexperts were quick to counter.
 
 
"These are sticker prices, and very few people will paythese prices," Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser FamilyFoundation, told the Columbus Dispatch."Many will qualify for subsidies. For consumers, all you can do is walk awayfrom this confused. Averages are pretty much meaningless."
 
It can be hard to find meaning in anything so hotly debated.Both the U.K. and the United States have healthcare systems in place that don'tseem to be working. It all makes me wonder: On which side of the pond is thegrass greener?
 
How does one even go about answering such a question, whenyou're pummeled by statistics gathered to prove any point, confronted withblatant misinformation and distracted by anecdotal evidence? Like ourbi-monthly columnist, Peter T. Kissinger argues below, "Facts don't matter …until they do." The question here is, whose version of the facts do we believe?
 
It would be nice to have some facts on public versus privatehealthcare. Unfortunately, the only fact I have in my possession related to thiscolumn is the fact that my own grass needs some TLC after a typically wacky(intermittent periods of hot/dry and cool/wet) Cleveland summer season.
 
 
But how about those Brits? And speaking of them, did youhear their royal family got a new addition last month with the birth of GeorgeAlexander Louis? Our managing editor, Jeff Bouley, dared me to mention that inmy column. This was the most creative way I could find to do that. Hey, everyother news organization in the world mentioned it. If you can't beat 'em, join'em. I guess some people would say the same thing about the United States'attempt to create a healthcare system similar to what the U.K. has. Then again,maybe they wouldn't. 
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