Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle didn’t just expose the royal family – it also revealed just how the broken US healthcare system is

Oprah "what"
Oprah’s reaction to Meghan Markle’s claim that a member of the royal family was concerned over her baby’s skin color.

  • Oprah interviewed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in a highly anticipated CBS special.
  • Viewers from the UK were shocked by how many pharmaceutical ads ran during the American broadcast.
  • Their medical costs are covered by the government, and their reactions expose how broken the US healthcare system is.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In the year since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down from their official duties as extensions of the British monarchy, scandalous, albeit unverified accusations came about from either side of the conflict. It all culminated in the royal couple’s primetime interview with Oprah, which revealed allegations of racism and abuse.

While the interview exposed the royal family’s callous treatment of Harry and Meghan, the conversation it drove online inadvertently exposed how broken the US healthcare system is. The interview aired from 8 pm to 10 pm Eastern in the United States, meaning that UK residents had to stay awake until the early morning hours to watch. As they did so, they became shocked and concerned by the existence of something Americans consider normal: a swarm of pharmaceutical ads.

“watching american adverts during the megan and harry oprah interview is so surreal, why are so many of them for meds?” tweeted one UK-based viewer.

“HELP why are all american ads about medicines??” tweeted another.

The answer is just as ridiculous as the existence of the ads themselves. The United States’ healthcare system was constructed on the idea of making money. Helping sick people is just a side effect.

Money is the motive

It’s easy to forget just how messed up the US healthcare system is – we Americans have lived with it our whole lives, which makes it “normal” – but the reaction to pharmaceutical advertisements by people living in Europe illustrate just how convoluted the American arrangement is.

“American adverts make me feel like I’m in some post-apocalyptic world” one viewer tweeted.

That’s because in the UK, the vast majority of people’s healthcare is administered by the National Health Service (NHS). When you get sick, you go to the doctor and are cared for at no cost “at the point of use,” meaning that the service itself is subsidized by taxes, but the actual care is free. If you are sick, you go to the doctor and are treated at no cost. If you have an accident, you are delivered to the hospital and operated on at no cost.

You don’t need insurance in the UK because it is provided through the NHS. Some supplemental insurance can be added, but only 10.5% of UK residents have that extra insurance.

Since the government is the almost exclusive buyer of medicines, the NHS negotiates a rate that it pays pharmaceutical companies and then provides the medicines to NHS users. Therefore, there’s no reason for pharma companies to aggressively advertise, and, in fact, these types of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads are banned in the UK.

In America however, pharmaceutical companies are competing to win over consumers and drive up their profits. Instead of having a nonprofit government entity to negotiate on their behalf, average Americans either have to fend for themselves or rely on insurance companies – who are also profit-driven – to negotiate the price for them.

That’s also where the ads come in. There are often multiple, competing brands of any given medication, so drug ads are designed to drive people towards more expensive name brand drugs and push people to try drugs they may not need. All of this is moot in a UK-style system where the government does the negotiating with drug companies.

The results of the profit-driven US model are devastating. Let’s use diabetes type 1 for example, a condition where the body can’t make enough insulin, which causes high blood pressure and affects more than 1 million Americans.

There are three competing insulin manufacturers in the US, the lack of competition and ability to negotiate for higher profits has in turn driven the cost of insulin so high that people are engaging in “insulin rationing,” or using less insulin than they should be, to make the doses last longer. This sort of rationing has led in some cases to death. The Twitter user above may have been joking when they described this as “post-apocalyptic,” but a system where it’s necessary to ration anything you need to live fits pretty squarely into that definition.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry raked in $1.3 trillion, with a “t,” in 2019.

And on top of these drug costs, American also have to deal with soaring insurance premiums and high, uncertain costs for basic needs, like ambulances.

It makes sense how dumbfounded UK viewers were when they saw American commercials for medication. They live in a system that doesn’t penalize you for something you cannot control.

The need for an American universal healthcare system, like Medicare For All, only intensifies with time. As long as our healthcare system prioritizes profit over people, we will continue to look ridiculous to the rest of the world.

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Pointless infighting among progressives is becoming exhausting and harmful

bernie sanders inauguration meme
Bernie Sanders is making money for charity thanks to his virtual inauguration meme.

  • A disagreement over Medicare For All has pit influential progressives against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • It’s the latest example of progressives engaging in dumb, line-drawing battles against each other.
  • Debate is healthy, but shunning people who want the same things is counter-productive.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

When a wing of progressives called on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to force a Medicare For All vote in the House, it drew a line in the sand for people on the left. #ForceTheVote was an effort that intended to ostracize Republicans and centrist Democrats who don’t support an overhaul of our nation’s healthcare system. AOC didn’t think it was a good idea, noting that forcing a vote that doesn’t have a chance in the House, let alone the Senate, could only cause friction among Democrats and harm their cause.

This disagreement created a loud faction of progressives who are now anti-AOC. They are seemingly led by comedian-turned-political talk show host Jimmy Dore, who in December said that AOC is now “standing between you and healthcare,” and went on to call her a liar, gaslighter, and coward.

Unthinkably, given her standing as the highest profile progressive member of Congress, AOC saw her Twitter mentions flooded with hate-fueled banter and accusations of being a sellout and fraud.

She’ll be fine, of course, as that’s just part of her job. But the impulse from progressives to turn on their own – and for relatively dumb reasons – has become a baffling spectacle and a maddening trend that’s stalled real change. Instead of infighting and bickering, progressives need to take a step back and understand what the best path to progress is.

You stab my back, and I’ll stab yours

The 2020 Democratic primaries were heated. People who were passionate about a particular candidate would sometimes wade into insults and ridicule on social media. Just about every candidate had a small but loud faction of supporters who would do this, but for whatever reason, Bernie Sanders’ online faction got the most media attention. While Sanders continued to offer an inclusive agenda and even denounced the more annoying parts of his base, scores of liberals and progressives became turned off by even the thought of Sanders. They held this grudge despite his long-standing record on vital issues and humble demeanor.

This became clear when Sanders, as head of the Senate Budget Committee, asked Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Budget Management, to reflect on her own attacks on social media, including personal attacks she hurled at Bernie himself. Tanden apologized for her actions, but if you looked under any tweet about the exchange, you saw countless accusations of sexism on Bernie’s part, attacks on his character, and a general sense of pure hatred for the man.

This grudge against Bernie Sanders held by so-called progressives remains weird and a little bit sad, especially considering how long it’s been since the primaries. The disdain for the Vermont senator even affects the people he associates with. When MoveOn, a high-profile progressive advocacy organization, endorsed Nina Turner, a former Bernie Sanders surrogate, for Congress, it was met with a wave of displeasure.

The list of pointless grudges doesn’t stop there. I’ll be the first to admit that I was upset with Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 primaries. 

I felt that she had undermined the progressive cause not just by promoting a misleading story that implied Sen. Bernie Sanders was sexist, but also by not corralling her supporters behind him when her campaign ran out of steam.

But now that a whole year has passed, it is easy to admit that Warren is a pivotal part of the progressive agenda and should be supported as such. Many progressives, though, simply can’t get over that grudge. She’s still a “snake” in too many people’s eyes.

Warren shunning
A tweet in response to Elizabeth Warren

These people are too petty to see that she’s fighting for everything they want, including universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, and a cancellation of student loan debt. It will be harder for progressives to accomplish those things if people who advocate for them aren’t supportive of the lawmakers who can make them happen. It’s not just Warren who’s been targeted by progressive grudges, either.

Like Sanders, Warren has fought for a slew of policies that progressives dream about, but for those who illogically consider them enemies of the progressive movement, that doesn’t matter.

Read more: The 2 reasons Republicans can’t move on from Donald Trump

Keep it simple

As someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter pointing out the hypocrisies of politicians, I am not saying you shouldn’t be skeptical of them in general. Even trivial forms of ridicule aren’t so bad in the larger discourse. But people should save their real disdain for an actual policy or platform they disagree with, instead of hating on someone who’s on their side, and for some trivial thing that happened more than a year ago. Debate is fine and encouraged, but the shaming and booing of one’s own team is counter-productive.

Figuring out who the best options for progress are shouldn’t be nearly this complicated. Think of the things you support, and support the politicians who agree with you. Naturally, when different strategies towards progress are debated, things may get heated. You might grow weary of someone and have less tolerance for them. That’s totally fine, and normal even. But progressives holding these year-long grudges against other progressives can only hurt the ultimate goal.

I wish Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee in 2020 and I wish Elizabeth Warren, after realizing her campaign was toast, had done more to solidify his chances. But both of these officials, along with newly chastised-from-the-left AOC, have a moral fortitude that’s actually pretty rare in politics. They serve us, but we have a role to play in their success. We just have to be smart about it.

Read the original article on Business Insider