Wednesday, August 12, 2009

'Evil and Orwellian' – America's right turns its fire on NHS.

In making their hysterical case against Obama's healthcare reforms, the Republicans have started attacking the British "socialist" healthcare system and making claims which any Brit instantly knows to be false, but which might just be believed by an American audience.

The most senior Republican on the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley, has claimed that Ted Kennedy would not be treated for his brain tumour in Britain because, at 77, his life would be considered "less valuable" in the UK than a similar person would be considered in the US.

This is palpable nonsense and the national health service has started to make it's displeasure at these false claims known.

The degree of misinformation is causing dismay in NHS circles. Andrew Dillon, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), pointed out that it was utterly false that Kennedy would be left untreated in Britain: "It is neither true nor is it anything you could extrapolate from anything we've ever recommended to the NHS."
But the British Embassy in Washington find themselves in a delicate position, attempting to correct blatant factual inaccuracies, whilst attempting to stay out of a heated political debate.

One right-leaning group, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, lists horror stories about British care on its website. An email widely circulated among US voters, of uncertain origin, claims that anyone over 59 in Britain is ineligible for treatment for heart disease.

The British embassy in Washington is quietly trying to counter inaccuracies. A spokesman said: "We're keeping a close eye on things and where there's a factually wrong statement, we will take the opportunity to correct people in private. That said, we don't want to get involved in a domestic debate."

I happen to disagree with the British Embassy's tendency to pussy foot around here. Our Embassy are there to represent us. When Republicans tell blatant and outrageous lies about our health service, making us seem like a heartless nation towards our elderly, I think we have every right to call them liars and to do so very loudly.

How stupid would anyone have to be to believe these ludicrous claims? Are they even aware that Britain is a democracy and that the elderly have a vote? What political party could hope to be elected if they proposed that anyone over 59 was ineligible for treatment for heart disease?

The Republicans are currently engaging in a lie fest in defence of a system which is much worse than the British one. Sure, there are things about our health system that we would like to correct. And, of course, as in any health system, one can identify the odd horror story. But the notion that a system which is free at the point of entry is automatically worse than the American one is simply false.

For example, in the most recent World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health systems, Britain was ranked at number 18 and the US came in at number 37, just in front of Slovenia and Cuba.

And, to achieve this ranking of 37th in the world, the US spends more on healthcare on a per capita basis than in any other nation in the world. And the Republicans have the gall to argue that Obama's plan might not be affordable?

Their system is already being beaten by 36 other countries, none of whom spend the outrageous amounts the US spends on healthcare.
David Levinthal, a spokesman for the nonpartisan Centre for Responsive Politics, said the sheer scale of the issue, which will affect the entire trajectory of US medical care, was arousing passions: "It's no surprise you have factions from every political stripe attempting to influence the debate and some of those groups are certainly playing to the deepest fears of Americans. There's been a great deal of documented disinformation propagated throughout the country."
I'll say there is "documented disinformation" being propagated in this debate. It's even worse than that; there are outright lies being told.

In Britain, our national health service is like the BBC. They are both national institutions, and politicians f@ck with them at their peril.

That would not be the case if our health service was anything like the travesty which these Republican liars are currently describing.

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association summed up our reaction to the American system:
"Doctors and the public here are appalled that there are so many people on the US who don't have proper access to healthcare. It's something we would find very, very shocking."
There is no such thing as a British person denied healthcare. We see healthcare is a political right and a human right. And that right is extended to each of our citizens, no matter what their age.

But there is good reason as to why the Republicans are spouting this nonsense.

The Republicans have, since Reagan, argued that, "Big government is not the solution, big government is the problem" and then went on - with Bush's handling of Katrina - to prove that big government is, indeed, useless.

Were an American national health system ever to be established, that argument would collapse. Because the Republicans would find a national health service to be wildly popular and any government which was unable to properly manage it, swiftly replaced.

So, I can see why they fear it so much. If they couldn't handle "big government" then no country with a national health service would ever elect them.

That's why they are lying their asses off.

Click title for full article.


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

OK, found the blog post I was talking about, and have deleted my previous comment because I got a few of the details wrong.

One of my friends posted on a blog that said if you wanted to see how socialised healthcare will refuse to treat people, you only have to ask a Brit.

She's British, and has lived in America so knows both healthcare systems quite well. Her response was "Well, since you ask..." and she then gave a rebuttal of the claims about the NHS that were made, and how she, and most British people, much prefer the NHS system.

Needless to say, her comment was deleted.

You can read her tale here -

It seems that certain powers are quite happy to say ask the Brits, but they only want to hear from Brits who don't approve of the NHS. And whilst I have no doubt that the majority of us feel that the NHS can be improved, I don't think there are many Brits who would advocate scrapping the NHS.

One other thing I've always wondered about. Why is universal healthcare evil and socialist, but universal education is fine?

Why does everyone having to pay through taxation for something everyone uses constitute un-American activities, yet everyone has to pay municipal taxes towards an education system that not everyone uses (for instance, if you're children have left school, or you don't have any children).

I've yet to hear a satisfactory explanation of why one government scheme that benefits society and is universal is good, but the other is so terribly wrong...

I wonder why....

Kel said...

Why is universal healthcare evil and socialist, but universal education is fine?

And why is universal healthcare considered good enough for the armed forces yet not good enough for ordinary Americans?

Jon Stewart nailed Bill Kristol on that particular hypocrisy recently.

And it is really annoying to watch these lies about the British system being bandied about as if there is a shred of truth in them, especially as we are so far above the US in world health tables.