Friday, August 14, 2009

So we’ll have death panels just like England?

Whoops, England doesn’t even have Legal Euthanasia ;) But anyway, one thing I find interesting about those criticizing “national health care” systems like England’s is that they’ve probably never asked a British person what they think of the NHS. Now of course no one is even proposing single payer right now, what’s being proposed is more akin to the Post Office. But anyway, CNN has a story about a sizable national response from the UK regarding comments made by Sarah Palin and other Conservatives:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britons including Prime Minister Gordon Brown have leapt to the defense of their creaking healthcare service after President Barack Obama's plans for a similar system in the United States were branded "evil" by Republicans.

Tens of thousands of people have joined a Twitter group expressing pride in the UK's National Health Service (NHS), which offers free taxpayer-funded medical care to all British residents, while leading politicians have spoken out in support.

Republican former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin earlier this week condemned Obama's plans to introduce a public heath insurance scheme as an "evil" move that would result in "death panels" deciding who would live or die.

Her criticism has been echoed by fellow Republicans in direct attacks on Britain's NHS. In an article, Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich said British healthcare was run by "Orwellian" bureaucrats who put a price tag on life.

Sound off: What do you think of the British healthcare model?

The comments caused a storm of protest in the United Kingdom, with Prime Minister Brown wading into the argument via micro-blogging site Twitter, where a conversation chain, "#welovetheNHS", is generating huge online traffic.

A posting on the 10 Downing Street Twitter site on Wednesday read: "PM: NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there."

The message was followed by another, from Brown's wife Sarah, adding: "#welovetheNHS -- more than words can say."

Professor Stephen Hawking, author of "A Brief History of Time", also spoke out in favor of the British system, telling the Guardian newspaper that he owes his life to NHS treatment for the neuro-muscular dystrophy he has suffered from for 40 years.

"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he said. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

Despite the support, the 51-year-old NHS is regularly the target of criticism at home, with opposition politicians accusing Brown's government of mismanagement resulting in long waiting lists and a "lottery" in deciding who gets life-saving drugs and surgery.

Nevertheless, opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron also added his voice to the defense campaign with a posting on his party's Web site.

" Millions of people are grateful for the care they have received from the NHS -- including my own family.

"One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured for fall ill -- no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've got -- you know that the NHS will look after you."

His statement followed comments from one of his own party members backing the Republican criticism of the NHS. Dan Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament reportedly said in an interview that "he wouldn't wish it on anyone."


Blogger Antiquated Tory said...

I think what might not be appreciated in America is that, while there are many, many problems with the NHS, the idea of disbanding it is simply not on the table.
A friend of mine who is mostly a solid Tory and whose family are doctors will give you a list of complaints as long as your arm about excessive bureaucracy, rules that don't work, misallocation of resources, etc. And in the worst cases, some people have died because of these problems. However, he describes the American rightists with their "death panel" complaints as beneath contempt. They have created some imaginary strawman NHS for their own purposes. For the most part, the NHS succeeds in guaranteeing a decent level of health care to Britons. Its problems are a British issue and have nothing to do with the American internal debate. It's also worth noting that the few people on the right in Britain who perhaps would like to dismantle the NHS are in an income bracket where they all get private care, anyway. And watch Cameron frantically disavow any association with their position!
Lastly, it is clear that despite the many legitimate grievances the British have against the NHS, this disingenuous slander from the American Right has brought Britons together behind the NHS, and has increased appreciation of the NHS, in a way that would not otherwise have been possible.

5:48 AM  
Blogger Carlo said...

Antiquated Tory:

Thank you very much for sharing your perspective personally. The political situation on my side of the pond is heated to say the least.

I just hope that all citizens of the USA, whether pro-obama or against, traditionally republican or democrat will hopefully take the time to fairly judge the systems being put on display as "dysfunctional".

Do I think NHS could be directly applied to the USA? No, not right now I don't think so. From what I understand NHS grew out of a system of volunteer hospitals which were government dependant anyway in the late 40's. The transition was natural for you British folks.

For us it's quite revolutionary, frankly I don't think an adequate system could be put together. That said if you've stuck around you'll see that I am quite for universal coverage. While I don't think an NHS system is realistic, I do like the idea of a government option.

Whatever happens, I just hope the ends are universal coverage for all American's somehow. As will as dropping this insane notion of a "pre-existing condition".

10:17 PM  
Blogger Antiquated Tory said...

I'd add that it appears that the current Administration direction is towards something like the Swiss plan, where all insurance is private but heavily regulated. I'm not sure if the Swiss have an equivalent to the co-ops, but it is possible. (My half-Swiss colleague doesn't know, as she grew up on pre-reform German civil servant insurance, which meant never having to think about it.)
I will say from some initial reading that the Swiss system can cost the average Swiss family 10%-20% of their income. That's one thing in Switzerland, where almost everyone makes plenty of money. It's another thing in a country with the wealth differentials of the United States.
I'd add that I think the number one problem in the US, even more than the number of un- and underinsured, is the insane level of cost. Sort that out, and extending coverage would be much easier. On the other hand, most of the profit in the system comes from soaking the insured, which subsidizes care for people who are never expected to pay their bill. The current system is making a lot of money for some sectors of health care, and even those hospitals etc who are just able to get by are at least able to get by and thus unlikely to trust change.
Doctors, at least the non-AMA-affiliated lot, are more open, from my experience in the US.
What confuses me is the resistance of the health insurance industry to a public option. Offloading non-remunerative economic activity onto the state is an ancient and respectable capitalist tradition. The current system is soaking the insurance companies and I don't think their margins are that wonderful, AFAIK. They're making their money on volume. And being jerks.
I'm afraid the US will end up post-reform with a system that still hasn't cut costs anything near enough, that is still expensive for the average insurance-buying family, and that has massive public subsidy of private insurers, to boot. (Er, more massive than the current indirect system, where Medicaid patients take their slightly febrile children to the ER at $1000 a pop, and the hospital claims it can't turn them away due to litigation concerns. But why is the minimal ER charge that high in the first place? It isn't in any other country.) But at least it might cover the uninsured.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Carlo said...

Antiquated Tory

Again thanks for the thoughtful response. It really sounds like you've done a lot of homework with regard to the current medical situation in the US. Heck I wouldn't be surprised if you were in some way connected to the health care business you're so well informed lol!! No slight intended, rather complimenting your well-informedness. It exceeds that of many of the noise makers here.

With regard to your thoughts on the Swiss system. If I interpret what you ahe4 said correctly then I would have to actually disagree with your assertion that we seem to be heading towards a Swiss like system... Or at the very least that we are intending to, though I admit there was a lot of pause on "The Hill" when the noise first started. Everybody was caught off guard.

The fact is such a system was proposed, and seems to have been quickly rejected by all sides. Liberals vehemently feel it doesn't go far enough (I tend to feel the same, though I can't be counted as a "traditional" liberal) while conservatives equally vehemently feel it goes way too far. If there's anything law makers on The Hill can agree on is that they don't like the Swiss plan lol.

Rather I see one of two alternatives coming from this:

1) Very little or no reform happens.

Under this sadly all too realistic outcome if any reform passes it will be little more than a moral victory. Maybe denial of service based on pre-existing conditions is made illegal (as it always should have been). But then law makers would leave open a wide hole, allowing insurance providers to price persons with pre-existing conditions (by another name) right out of the market. Or worse yet, we won't even get that far. The proposed bills would just die one by one in congress

2) More substantive change likely including a federally backed "insurance company". This "company" would be a federal entity but would have to act like a private insurer, and sustain its self on policy premiums like a private insurer. Attached would be other reforms like the removal of this pre-existing conditions stuff. With a fair (or more fair) Federally backed competitor to consider, private insurers would have little choice but to start acting more like a free market, and less like an organized cartel as they do now.

I pray (literally) for outcome # 2, but realistically accept that outcome #1 is extraordinarily (perhaps more) likely.

1:11 PM  

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