Healthcare: Fix What’s Broken vs. Repeal and Replace

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These days especially, there’s an unlimited supply of hotly politicized topics perfectly suited to make sure we talk past each other — and learn nothing. Healthcare provides numerous examples.

For example, President Trump got a rise out of the Brits last week tweeting barbs at its beloved National Health Service (NHS), a topic which, by his own account, he knows little about. Trump zeroed-in on a recent NHS protest and sparked a backlash saying that the “NHS is going broke and not working.” The protest he referenced, interestingly enough called “NHS in crisis: Fix it now,” was organized by the People's Assembly and Health Campaigns Together. The movement is supported by most all of the U.K.’s largest unions.

In other words, the protesters were marching because, in fact, the NHS needs fixing because, well, it’s broke(n). In other words, when taken at face value Trump’s tweet becomes harder to argue with. Essentially, he’s playing back the words of the protesters themselves. And despite whiffing on the deeper context, wrongly believing he’d captured their sentiment, the fact that he got it wrong isn’t distinguished, not in the least, because most everyone does.

The U.K. citizenry believes in the promise of its NHS and are demanding the government cut loose more funding, because it is, in fact, broken. But they don’t want it replaced. They want it fixed, a simple enough concept to grasp, unless you happen to be a U.S. lawmaker.

It’s an important distinction clearly lost in Trump’s remark. And frankly, if he more fully understood how the U.K.’s immigration nightmare is almost singularly responsible for pushing the NHS to its brink, he’d probably feel emboldened. Brexit didn’t happen without its reasons.

Not unlike U.S. healthcare, there are all kinds of problems with the NHS, but they are grounded in issues that have nothing to do with US healthcare (and visa versa). U.K. lawmakers and NHS executives who criticize the U.S. system as “barbaric,” suggesting that 28 million uninsured Americans are wandering around sick and “unable to receive care” is no less politicized a remark than the one made by Trump. Similarly, if Trump is implying that the NHS is a bad reference point for U.S. lawmakers, he is neither right nor wrong, because the comparison isn’t legit.

U.S. lawmakers would be wise to focus on fixing what’s broken, which polling indicates is exactly what U.S. healthcare consumers would like to see happen. Interestingly, the citizens of the U.K. and the U.S. seem to share that same opinion.

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