British People Don't Understand U.S. Healthcare Costs and Neither Do I

It's one healthcare, Michael, what could it cost?
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
A woman stares at a stack of bills
Rowan Jordan via Getty

Medical expenses are the most common reason why Americans file for bankruptcy; if prices seem high now, they’re only projected to climb higher. Healthcare reform (or rather: major overhaul) is the most important and contentious issue of the 2020 presidential election. If you’re still not convinced, you could stare at all the numbers and graphs and charts and even real, astronomical medical bills to try and understand how bad things truly are. Or!!! You could watch this fairly gimmicky four and a half-minute video of British people losing their marbles over the average costs of routine care in the United States.


Created by JOE, a news site in the United Kingdom, the video is a classic man on the street situation: A dude with a microphone asks random passersby to guess what certain things like “having a baby,” or “getting an inhaler” might cost in the U.S., where there is no such thing as the National Health Service. The whole thing is almost cute, in an, “Aww, pinch your little cheeks, you Brits have never even heard of waiting until the brink of death to finally visit the doctor,” kinda way. The video is cheesy, for sure; there’s a lot of dramatic gasping and someone even says the phrase, “Shut the fridge,” in a moment of terror over how much EpiPens cost (about $600-650 for two). But it also just might seem cheesy to me—a cynical idiot with medical bills shoved in her sock drawer—because shock over this country’s astronomical health costs feels naïve and quaint. Yeah of course it’s $10,000 goddamn dollars to birth a baby, you dolt, I thought as I watched, taking a long, knowing drag from the 1,000 cigarettes in my mouth. Don’t act so shocked!!!!

But it’s actually utterly tragic that any of us, myself included, are this surprised by their surprise. I would be curious to see what the domestic version of this video might look like. If you asked people on sidewalks in the United States what they thought these same procedures cost, what would they guess? The most fun part would be the host could honestly make up any number; things are so out of hand, if you told me that a flu shot cost $8,000, I might believe it.

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