Rob Delaney was born on January 19, 1977 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He is an actor and writer, known for Catastrophe (2015), Life After Beth (2014) and Bra League (2012). The following is his open letter about NHS and why it beats US healthcare hands down.
"I am not the smartest person in the world, nor even close to the smartest person I know. Nor have I visited the vast majority of countries on this magnificent planet.
But I did happen to move from the US to the UK two and a half years ago at the age of 37, i.e. after almost four decades of inhabiting an incredibly hairy human body.
Thus I’ve had a good deal of experience as a patient, or as they call you in the US, a consumer of American healthcare before moving to the UK to experience the NHS for two-plus years as a father of three, a husband of a woman whose reproductive system is more glorious and has more complex needs than my own, and as a person whose own body is subject to the ravages of gravity, time, and secret Oreo milkshakes from Five Guys.
What I’m getting at is that I’m in a pretty good position to speak with some degree of clarity on the NHS as it compares to the American healthcare system.
And here’s the verdict: the NHS is superior . That isn’t to say it’s perfect; no healthcare system is or can be. People (myself included) have and will continue to complain about their healthcare, wherever they receive it, because medicine is treating your body, or your loved one’s body.
It is not performing the far less important and less fraught tasks of selling you a car or fixing your mobile’s broken screen or painting your house or making you a sandwich (though to be fair both the NHS or UCLA Santa Monica Hospital in Los Angeles will make you a reasonably good sandwich if you have to stay in hospital).
Medicine is treating your body! Your hearing, your intestines, your tits! Sometimes even your… nodes! The delicacy of this, and the emotions involved are going to leave you with a mixed bag of feelings, even if you achieve the optimal results of whatever it is you went in for.
I should also make clear that I’m comparing the US healthcare system with the NHS of today. The NHS constantly in the headlines for being cash-strapped and worse than it was in the past .
Is it? It sounds to me like it is, but I don’t personally know, and that’s not the purpose of this piece. The purpose of this piece is to tell you that the NHS of this exact moment in 2017 is better that the private healthcare systems in the US.
(I have to pluralize “systems” because there is, sadly, no one unified “system” in the US, much to the detriment of so many millions of Americans. I must also make clear that most Americans receive their healthcare privately, unlike the U.K.)
How is it better? I will say right away that just like in the UK, my loved ones and I have received generally very good medical care in the US. The American doctors and nurses are mostly kind people, working hard, sincerely interested in helping others.
Unfortunately these doctors and nurses are paid with money the hospital receives from health insurance companies. And health insurance companies are motivated by profit, not by successfully setting your broken shoulder or curing your daughter’s leukemia.
Those results aren’t discussed in their shareholders’ calls. And insurance companies don’t pay for all your care either.
My wife and I, who had what’s considered excellent insurance in the US, received bills for about $1,300 after each of our first two kids were born. When we were in the US on holiday recently, our youngest required an emergency ultrasound on his kidneys.
As we’ve been in the UK for years now, we don’t have American health insurance anymore and I had to pay a $500 deposit before they would do the test. On my baby’s kidneys. In the richest country in the world, in which I still pay plenty of taxes as a citizen.
The main point is this: if our bodies and minds are connected as modern medicine insists, the stress one feels as an American worrying about how you’ll pay for your healthcare – or whether you can even get it – shortens your life and reduces its quality much more than the wait for knee replacement surgery on the NHS does.
I used knee replacement surgery as an example because if you need emergency surgery on your brain or your heart, you won’t wait on the NHS; you’ll have world-class doctors doing their best to fix you right away.
Fifteen years ago, I had to max out two credit cards and borrow a third from mom to pay for surgery to put a pin in a broken wrist after a car accident. (My insurance company had dropped my coverage after the accident because I was generating too many bills for them.
That was 100 per cent legal before the Affordable Care Act, aka 'Obamacare', came into effect. The Obamacare which President-Elect Trump and the Republican Congress have pledged to repeal, mind you.
Now before you send me flowers because you agree so vehemently with what I’ve written, or alternately, to tell me via Twitter to make love to myself because an NHS doctor once sewed your arm back on upside down, nobody asked me to write this and I have nothing to gain from it.
I’m just a (nearly) forty-year-old comedian who does a graceful, elaborate jig every time my wife or kids or I visit a GP, an A and E, a birth centre, or an operating theatre and don’t have to worry if we’ll A) receive the care we need or B) be able to afford it, even if we have insurance.
Americans forego care and medicine that their physicians prescribe, because of cost. They also commit suicide because of medical debt. It’s hard to hold in one’s mind the idea that those things can and do happen in a country as wealthy as the United States.
I hesitate to end this piece with a call to action, though I know what I’d do if I were a UK citizen and something as remarkable as the NHS were under threat. I pay taxes here too, but I’m not British, so it’s up to you, if you care.
I wouldn’t wish sickness on anyone, but you might consider imagining yourself or your child moving or traveling to the US and getting sick or being in an accident.
Then imagine that already miserable experience magnified because you’re marinating in the fear that you won’t be able to pay for your care. Or maybe you can with a credit card, but then you can’t keep up with the payments so you begin to receive aggressive phone calls from the company the hospital sold your debt to. Maybe you get taken to court.
If that’s not something you’d like to experience, and you think the NHS of today is closer to that scenario than the NHS of ten years ago, or if you think that there are those in government or on the boards of private healthcare corporations who might be okay with that sort of future unfolding, what might you do about it? Anything?"