How might we react if we discovered a foreign country was working behind the scenes to privatize our public school system?
How about if that country–or any other–were in cahoots with the White House to privatize our roads, our fire departments, or police departments?
Assuming we were sufficiently informed about it, we would probably be justifiably up in arms.
Yet, as we speak, Donald Trump is secretly working with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to work out a post-Brexit deal to privatize Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
Corbyn stated during a press conference Trump administration negotiators are “demanding” the NHS be put “on the table.”
“That could lead to runaway privatization of our health service. Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country. And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.”
“These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters. Voters need to ask themselves some very serious questions. Is the NHS safe in Boris Johnson’s hands? We’ve now got evidence that under Boris Johnson, the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale. They tried to cover it up. Their secret agenda today is exposed.”
The U.K.’s Channel 4 first aired a story quoting anonymous sources with knowledge of the ongoing trade negotiations, reporting:
“They want to remove the U.K.’s ability to block American drugs not deemed ‘value for money’ and restrict our powers to allow cheaper alternatives to be prescribed to patients which save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds a year.”
About this, Corbyn said:
“Longer patents can only mean one thing: more expensive drugs. Lives will be put at risk as a result of this.”
Comparing drug prices in the U.K. with those in the the United States, Corbyn drew an example from Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira:
“It costs our NHS £1,409 a packet. In the US, the same packet costs £8,115. Get the difference: £1,409 in our NHS, £8,115 in the USA. One of the reasons for US drug prices being on average 250% of those here is a patent regime rigged for the big pharmaceutical companies.”
Director of U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now, Nick Dearden, said in a statement the documents Corbyn publicized “clearly show the British negotiators being bullied by Trump’s administration, and Boris Johnson dancing to the tune of U.S. big business.”
“The U.S. is demanding damaging changes to the British economy which threaten our public services like the NHS, our food standards and farmer livelihoods, our access to new cancer medicines, and our ability to tackle climate change. U.S. officials are damning about parliamentary scrutiny over safety standards and are even trying to dictate what positions Britain can take in international fora.”
Brexit is presenting the United Kingdom with an historic mess, and mirroring our dysfunctional for-profit health insurance system will only compound it.
Despite paying the most for healthcare, we are not the healthiest country.
Healthcare costs in the United States are the leading cause of bankruptcy.
We pay a lot in taxes in this country (unless we’re super-wealthy). Consider all the additional costs we incur in prescription drugs and doctor visit co-payments. For too many, it’s too much.
The United States needs a single-payer universal healthcare system because health should not be profitable. Wealthy business leaders, pharmaceutical executives, and politicians who legislate for them should not get rich off others’ pain and suffering.
As author and progressive radio personality Thom Hartmann stated in his book Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class–And What We Can Do About It:
“Of every $100 that flows through corporate insurance programs and HMOs, $10 to $34 sticks to corporate fingers along the way. After all, Medicare doesn’t have lavish corporate headquarters, doesn’t use corporate jets, and doesn’t pay expensive lobbying firms in Washington to work on its behalf. It doesn’t ‘donate’ millions of dollars to politicians and their parties. It doesn’t pay profits in the form of dividends to its shareholders. And it doesn’t compensate its top executive with more than $1 million a year, as do each of the largest of the American insurance companies.”
There are many permutations of national healthcare systems, and we do not need to follow any other country’s model in lock step.
The United Kingdom, for example, practices socialized medicine in which the government owns and operates most of the healthcare providers and doctors are government employees. Although technically a single-payer system, it is just one model.
This is the difference between “socialized medicine” and “single-payer.”
We could learn a lot from Britain.
Of all of its pressing national issues, sliding backward into an American-style for-profit healthcare model should not be among them.
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