Saturday, August 15, 2009

British views of British health care are not relevant to Americans.

The Financial Times reports that the British socialized health care system has strong bipartisan support in Britain:
The US right has used the NHS as an example of the potential pitfalls facing President Barack Obama as he tries to push through a healthcare reform bill.

Some Republicans have ridiculed it as a bureaucratic and “Orwellian” system that often denies care to the elderly – with Sarah Palin, the former Republican presidential candidate, decrying it as “evil”.

But in Britain, where since 1948 all citizens have enjoyed free healthcare from birth to death, the attacks are widely seen as wrong and insulting.

Such is the strength of public support for the NHS in the UK, that the two main political parties have agreed to ring-fence its expenditure in the coming years – in spite of cuts to almost all other departmental budgets.
Of course the population of Britain strongly supports socialized health care. That's the point the American conservatives have been making all along: once the national government seizes control of the health care system, the mass of the population will have no choice but to support it. The goal of government control is to reduce the population to the status of serfs, not to improve services to the population. Would you really want to put your future health care at risk by criticizing your nation's health care monopoly?

If that is to melodramatic for you, then think about nationalized health care in terms of political rhetoric. Nationalized health care then has an immense political advantange over alternative systems because its opposition is self-negating. However much you speak out against nationalization, your opponents know that you'll come crawling back to the system on your hands and knees someday, or that you'll mark yourself as a dangerous elitist by accepting private care or care in a foreign country.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan makes a nice example of how British citizens become enemies of the state if they are even suspected of being disloyal to the British National Health Service (NHS; emphasis in original):
Still, I do wonder at the tone and nature of the criticism [of himself]. It seems to be based on playing the man rather than the ball. My detractors say that I’m out on a limb, that I’m in the pay of the insurance companies, that I’m insulting those who have had successful treatment from the NHS. (What? How?) If supporters of the status quo were truly confident of their case, surely they would extend their logic. I mean, why shouldn’t the state allocate cars on the basis of need, with rationing by queue? Or housing? Or food? I am reminded of the debate over asylum ten years ago, or Europe ten years before that. Remember the way even the most moderate and tempered proposals for stricter border controls were decried as “playing the race card”? Or, earlier, the way any suggestion that the EU wasn’t democratic was dismissed as “xenophobia”? Remember how keen supporters of the existing set-up were to shut down any argument? There are good and honourable people who support the NHS; and there are good and honourable people who don’t. Is that really such an extreme thing to say?


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