Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez just reminded us why the NHS is so important in the upcoming election

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Jessica Rapana
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The American congresswoman has tweeted a timely warning about the importance of free healthcare. Meanwhile, writer Adam Kay has shared some tips on how we can vote in support of the NHS.

This week, a video of surprised Brits gasping at the cost of healthcare in the US went viral on Twitter.

The four-minute clip, posted by the news website Joe, shows people in the UK being quizzed on how much they think various healthcare procedures and items cost in the US, such as an inhaler ($250-$350), two epiPens ($600) and an ambulance ride ($2,500) – all of which are free in the UK through the NHS.

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The takeaway message from Brits in the video is clear: after learning that the cost of healthcare in the US is roughly twice as much as in the UK, despite worse outcomes and heavy bills that land on consumers, one woman calls the NHS “literally the gift that keeps on giving.”

Not only has the video been shared more than 10 million times, it has also caught the attention of a number of progressive American politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The New York congresswoman urged Britons to “cherish and protect” the NHS, warning it could take “generations to regain” if dismantled. 

She tweeted: “To our friends in the UK: please cherish, protest, & continue investing in your healthcare system! Once Big Phrama & special interests get their hands on it, it could take generations to regain. Millions of people in the US are fighting to have a system half as good as the NHS.”

Bernie Sanders, a leading Democratic 2020 presidential contender, also shared the video to remind people how normal the concept of free healthcare is in the UK. “Remember that our outrageous for-profit system is not the norm in other countries. We can and we must do better. We need Medicare for All now,” he said.

Unlike in the US, the best healthcare option is chosen for you in the UK, based on publicly available cost-benefit analyses by public health officials. What’s more, the UK government pays about half of what the US does towards health care, according to The Guardian.

In the US, the average consumer spends more than $10,000 a year on healthcare, with 52% of all debt collection actions including unpaid medical bills. These high costs can have significant repercussions with more than half a million Americans going bankrupt each year due to a medical illness. Worse still, 45,000 Americans die annually because they don’t have healthcare. As one Brit puts it in the video: “Man, so if you’re poor, you’re dead.”

Healthcare continues to lie at the heart of political debate in both countries, and the NHS remains a central issue ahead of the UK’s 12 December election. 

Adam Kay, a former NHS doctor and author of This Is Going To Hurt, recently addressed in a series of tweets how people could vote in support of the NHS this month.

“In my opinion, Brexit will be A VERY BAD THING for the NHS,” Kay warned. “The number of staff returning home to the EU mainland will accelerate (this is already happening a lot),” he said.

“Whether or not the NHS will be ‘on the table’ (spoiler alert: it will), one thing that unequivocally will be up for grabs is drugs. We pay a lot less for drugs than Americans. The Pharma companies will want to close this gap, and this won’t mean making Americans pay less btw.

“All the NHS money comes from one pot. More money spent on drugs will mean less money to be spent in other places. Some politicians might tell you that the NHS will actually IMPROVE after Brexit. Only 7% of NHS staff share this view (YouGov poll). Maybe think about why this is.”

Kay added that he would be voting “for the party most likely to keep Boris [Johnson] out and prevent a hideous hard Brexit (which is what his deal is)”.

Either way, Kay and AOC’s warnings are a timely reminder of the importance of educating ourselves on what the political parties’ are promising for the NHS ahead of 12 December. Our lives could depend on it.

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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