In the video, the off-screen presenter conducts person-on-the-street interviews with several Brits and one American, asking some seemingly simple questions, such as: How much does it cost for an inhaler in the United States? How about to call an ambulance? To give birth? Or to buy two EpiPens?
The conclusion: “Shut the fridge,” as one interviewee incredulously put it on learning that two EpiPens can cost $600 in the United States — compared with her initial guess of $40.
“That’s a very good question,” the presenter responds.
“$600?” she asks again, her eyes bulging. She then exhales and gesticulates the transnational sign for “mind blown.”
“$100, $200,” another woman hesitantly guesses when asked how much childbirth costs in the United States. She seems genuinely scared about what the presenter will say next.
“The average is about $10,000,” he answers. “It can go up to $30,000.”
“10,000!” she shouts, her voice cracking. “For a baby?!”
“That’s mad,” she concludes. “Oh, no, thanks.”
The interviewer ends the segment on a more heartfelt note.
“Finally, does it make you grateful for the NHS?” he asks one of the participants, referring to the National Health Service, Britain’s public health-care model, which offers free childbirth and ambulance services, among other free and subsidized resources.
“Absolutely,” the man responds. “Absolutely. I mean, I didn’t know how much free health care we got just, like, off the bat. But knowing you have to pay, like, $30,000 for a child, it’s outrageous.”
This segment, of course, is by no means a scientific study of British public opinion on the matter. But it does capture a big divide between the British and American health-care systems. This seemingly domestic debate has become political fodder on both sides of the Atlantic.
Why? Well, enter President Trump, who is no fan of public health-care systems and has posited the future of the NHS could be on the table when the United States and Britain sit down for post-Brexit trade talks.
Britain’s Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has made the NHS a core campaign issue, warning that the NHS could be sold off to U.S. companies if the Conservative Party wins and leads those post-Brexit talks.
“Labour won’t let Donald Trump get his hands on our National Health Service,” Corbyn told a cheering crowd recently, “Quite bluntly, it’s not for sale.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Conservative, has rejected the claim that the NHS would be on the table in the trade talks. That, though, isn’t convincing everyone. His party campaigned for Brexit on the argument — often presented in a misleading way — that leaving the E.U. would free up more money for the cash-strapped NHS. At the same time, the Conservative Party has supported cuts to the NHS and the privatization of some of its services, angering many Brits.
In June, Trump told then-Prime Minister Theresa May, “When you’re dealing on trade, everything is on the table — so NHS or anything else, and a lot more than that.” He backtracked on the comment this week while in London for a NATO summit, denying there was any such plan and saying, “I don’t even know where that rumor started.”
Corbyn, nonetheless, is campaigning away on the matter. He has even made public allegedly “secret” documents that he said prove “that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.”
When asked this week what he would tell Trump if they met, Corbyn responded, “I will say, ‘Welcome to this country. I hope you’ll understand how precious our National Health Service is, and in any future trade relationship with the USA, none of our public services are on the table, none of our public services are for sale.”
Johnson, meanwhile, has reportedly tried to avoid Trump at the NATO summit, as the optics don’t play well for the British electorate.
Back in the United States, where Democrats are split on how to fix the country’s health-care system, the British NHS debate has entered the domestic political landscape. On Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted out that viral video with a message of support for the NHS:
“To our friends in the UK: please cherish, protect, & continue investing in your healthcare system!” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Once Big Pharma & 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.”