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Trump stirs a hornet's nest in Britain by blasting its National Health Service

Laura King, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has a way of bringing Britons together.

He united them in outrage when he retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British party. He galvanized popular support for London's mayor when he accused the mayor of not taking terror threats seriously -- even as London was recovering from a deadly terror strike. And following a visit to the White House last year, Prime Minister Theresa May was mercilessly mocked in the British press for appearing overly sycophantic toward Trump, to the point of walking hand-in-hand with him.

Now comes a presidential broadside against Britain's National Health Service -- and Britons, by and large, are having none of it.

After large-scale weekend protests in London demanding improvements and better funding for the public health service, which offers most medical treatments free of charge or at low cost, Trump tweeted Monday morning that the NHS was "going broke and not working."

Trump's tweet: "The Democrats are pushing for Universal Health care 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!"

The president -- who has sought to scrap the Affordable Care Act, one of former President Barack Obama's signature achievements -- accused rival Democrats in the U.S. of "pushing for Universal Health care while thousands of people are marching in the UK." Characterizing the protests as a call to get rid of NHS altogether, Trump said of any move to provide single-payer care for Americans: "No thanks!"

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Virtually no one in Britain considers the NHS perfect: The need for urgent reforms, such as reducing waiting times and adding doctors and hospital beds, was the declared point of the weekend demonstrations.

But Trump's critique touched a raw nerve in a country that considers universal access to medical services to be something akin to a national treasure, under a system created just after World War II and now relied on by millions of people.

After Trump's tweet, Britons went on social media and related personal stories of having received free or low-cost medical treatment for debilitating or life-threatening ailments, and denounced a U.S. system under which serious illness can lead to bankruptcy or death or both. Others pointed to Britain's lower health care costs and longer life expectancy when compared with the United States.

"All due respect, sir, it's working for me," filmmaker Colin Trevorrow tweeted from an NHS hospital, where he said he was recovering from an emergency appendectomy. He described his care as excellent.

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