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Donald Trump wrongly suggests British don't love their health care system
As thousands marched in the streets of London recently to protest funding cuts to the British National Health Service, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize the idea of universal health care.
"The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!"
See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com
Trump’s Feb. 5 tweet came shortly after Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party leader, talked about the NHS march and universal health care on Fox & Friends, warning Americans it would be "politically impossible" to remove such a system once introduced. Trump thanked the network on Twitter for "exposing the truth" shortly after Farage’s appearance.
We wondered how accurate Trump’s claim was that people joined the NHS march because the UK’s universal health care system "is going broke and not working."
We looked at the origins of the march and recent polling statistics about British public opinion on the National Health Service, commonly called the NHS. We also looked at the current funding situation, since Trump’s claim suggests it’s losing money. We found that Trump’s tweet gives a misleading impression about how the British public feels about its health care system.
Public support for NHS
University of North Carolina health policy professor and deputy director of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Thomas C. Ricketts, told PolitiFact that the NHS probably has higher public support than any other government program in the UK.
Public support for the NHS being maintained in its current form remains high according to a poll by Ipsos; 77 percent of people support this, while 9 in 10 people think the founding principles of the NHS should still apply to services today. Two-thirds of adults are willing to pay more of their own taxes to pay for the NHS.
In a poll by YouGov last year, 84 percent of people were in favor of the service continuing to be run by the public sector.
Helen Howson, the director of the Bevan Commission, an independent think tank for health in Wales, is working to find ways to improve the system while maintaining the principles set out at its founding.
"The NHS is a service which was set up to ensure that no one would be disadvantaged on the basis of their ability to pay, and people are passionate about these principles," she said.
This year marks 70 years of NHS existence in the U.K., but the health care system has gone through what has been described as the worst winter in its recent history. The lack of funding is often blamed on austerity measures put forth by the Conservative Party and there have been concerns raised over privatizing parts of the system.
Trump’s comments regarding the demonstration received immediate response by British officials, such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said people were marching because they love the NHS and hate what is being happening to it by the current party in power.
Health minister Jeremy Hunt, who was largely blamed for the severe lack of winter funding, hit back at Trump’s remarks, writing on Twitter that not one of the marchers "wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover."
This is not to say that people don’t have concerns about the NHS. In a poll released last summer by the British Medical Association, more people are unhappy with the NHS than satisfied for the first time in the public poll run by British doctors. It showed that 70 percent of people think the health service is going in the wrong direction.
The poll shows that 43 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the service, which is double the number of dissatisfaction percentage in only two years. About 33 percent of respondents say they are satisfied. The poll also concluded that 82 percent of people are worried about the future of the NHS, 62 percent expect the NHS to get worse in the coming years and only 13 percent think that it will improve.
The leading concerns of the respondents included a lack of funding, the possibility that the NHS may cease to be free at the point of use, increased waiting times and a lack of attention given to the service because of Brexit.
Trump also claimed that Democrats are pushing a similar health care plan to the NHS in the United States. Democrats have devised plans ranging from a total-government "Medicare for all," also known as a single-payer health system, to a more limited "public option" that pits individual government-run plans up against private insurance for people who weren’t able to find affordable coverage in Obamacare. The latter allows Americans to gain access to government insurance alongside private health care plans.
The current version of Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act, has little resemblance to the NHS, where the government owns most of the hospitals and clinics, and doctors and nurses are government employees.
Trump said, "The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!"
While the NHS has lost funding over the years, the march that took place was not in opposition to the service, but a call to increase funding and stop austerity cuts towards health and social care. The march resulted because people want universal health care to work better, not because they want it taken over by the private sector.
We rate this Mostly False.
Originally published on February 8, 2018 in Politifact National