(CNN)The idea is simple: You are feeling unwell. You go to your local medical office or hospital, and within a few hours, you’re seen by a doctor, given a diagnosis and prescribed the necessary treatment.
Perhaps most important: There is no bill at the end of your visit.
Regardless of your income, employment status, address or any other factor, this provision is free at the point of care.
This is what more than 65 million people in the United Kingdom have come to expect from their country’s health care system, the National Health Service, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.
The population’s health care is funded through taxes and compulsory contributions deducted from income, which go toward many state benefits. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UK spends an average of $4,192 per person for a universal system.
But alarming headlines, protests on the streets of London and a tweet from the President of the United States have the eyes of the world on the UK, questioning whether this long-revered health care model has a place in today’s financial climate.
“Thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U(niversal) system is going broke and not working,” President Donald Trump tweeted of the thousands who demonstrated February 3 for more money to finance the service.
British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt soon fought back, defending the system whose budget he determines and tweeting that 28 million people in the United States “have no cover.”
Prime Minister Theresa May responded that she was proud of Britain’s health service.
Compared with the complexities of obtaining and being eligible for insurance, the idea of a national health service is indeed simple — to its users. For those financing it, not so much.
NHS funding is one of the most hotly contested issues in British politics, with all parties wanting to know how to maintain universal access to care at a time of rising costs and demand. The system seems to be splitting at its seams. Is it broken?