British fear 'American-style' health care

Dr. Thomas Hoffeld, chief of staff at the Spanish Peaks Health Center, speaks with a patient covered by Medicaid on August 5, 2009 in Walsenburg, Colo.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: In Britain today, Prime Minister David Cameron will announce he's softening some of the massive reforms he'd planned for British health care. Interestingly, while politicians here in the U.S. say they don't want anything like a British-style socialized medical system, a lot of Brits are railing against going the route of the mostly-private, American health care system.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard joins us now from London with more on that. Hi Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: Why all the fear of 'American-style' health care?

BEARD: It is the great bogeyman of the British health care debate. Many Brits have a somewhat distorted view of what happens in the U.S. I have to say, you're knocked down by a bus, you're lying in the road, but the ambulance won't pick you up and take you to the hospital until they've seen your credit card. That's what many Brits believe. The point is that health care in the U.K., under the NHS is free at the point of use. So, you go to the doctor's office, you go to the hospital, you have an operation, you don't pay -- however rich you are. The Brits are very attached to that system, and very fearful of what they see as the costly unfair and commercialized American system.

CHIOTAKIS: All right Stephen if so many people are happy with the status quo there in Great Britain -- why do leaders want to change things?

BEARD: Well, because it's free, at the point of use demand's practically unlimited and costs are rising very rapidly. The NHS is heading towards a crunch and the government says it wants to contain and curb these costs by getting rid of bureaucracy, trying to get a bit more competition into the system, more private health care providers. But this has met huge opposition from the general population.

Mark Littlewood of the free market Institute of Economic Affairs says it's beginning to look as if you can't reform the NHS.

MARK LITTLEWOOD: Criticizing it is about the moral equivalent of burning the stars and stripes in the U.S.A. It is almost considered and unpatriotic and unacceptable thing to do or consider.

So, today the Prime Minister will tone down his reform package. Mark Littlewood that will only delay the day of reconning for the NHS.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London. Stephen, thanks.

BEARD: OK Steve.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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