UK and US Health Systems: Can we Learn From Each Other?

Brittany Stollar, 2015 GHLI Fellow

Before this summer, I had almost no knowledge of the structure, the effectiveness, or the political implications of the National Health Services — the United Kingdom’s health care system. When I joined GHLI as an intern, that quickly changed. My first project involved researching the impact of NHS reform on the recent elections in the UK. What really made this experience special was not just that I was learning about the NHS in greater depth, but I got to hear about certain details first-hand when our UK colleagues visited the Yale campus this summer. 

During the week-long Forum, I was surprised to realize how little I really knew about health care systems outside of the U.S. I knew our health care expenditure per capita was much higher than most other countries, but never truly understand to what degree and that we spend more than $2000 beyond that of our closest competitor while still having health outcomes consistently below the average of our peers. I was also shocked by how partisan the Affordable Care Act has been. Unlike in the UK, there is no agreement between the parties on any of the issues raised within the ACA.

Coming from a country that has practiced universal health care coverage since 1948, the UK delegates struggled to understand our political conflict over the ACA. I found myself struggling to understand as well. I hadn’t realized that I’d grown accustomed to debates over the basic human right of available, accessible, affordable, and acceptable health care. While the delegates learned about how to improve the NHS by looking at our system, I learned how we could improve our system by looking at the NHS. During this week, the concept of national agreement on universal health care became less of a myth and more of a feasible possibility.

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