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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The NHS under attack

There’s a big row going on about President Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms in the US at the moment. It’s US politics, so holds little interest for me.

But then the Republicans – taking hyperbole and wilful disinformation to whole new levels – started bringing the British National Health Service into the debate (despite the NHS being nothing like what Obama’s proposing for the US). Sarah Palin (remember her?) has described the health service that my grandfather helped set up – turning down a very lucrative job in the private sector in the process – as “evil”. Various US right-wing rabble-rousers have repeated her hyperbolic description of the decision-making process of what drugs and treatments to offer on the NHS as being “death panels”, implying that the NHS is little more than a National Euthanasia Service – all in the name of smearing Obama’s planned reforms. It’s all sparked a major internet outcry from Brits disgusted at the sheer ignorance of some of these comments, slagging off a service that is, in more ways than one, a national institution.

I still didn’t really care, to be honest. It’s America. They do things differently there, and what they do has been up to them pretty much ever since that incident with the tea in Boston Harbour. (Well, bar us burning down the White House in 1814, but sssshhh…)

But then up stepped our old favourite Dan Hannan, blogging Tory MEP for South East England, and one of the most Eurosceptic (and, seemingly, out-of-touch) Conservative politicians going. He’s repeatedly been going on Fox News to slate the NHS in the most ridiculous terms – revealing either a complete ignorance of its services and functions or a desire to fellate the American right’s prejudices in a desperate attempt to revive his surprise YouTube success of earlier this year, which went down a storm in the States.

And so I got interested – because I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that Hannan (whom I previously regarded as intelligent and articulate, though with a disappointing tendency to play to the gallery) is a dangerous moron.

I’ve always slagged off the NHS as being wasteful, over-managed and unreliable – while still, please note, never for a moment thinking that it would be a good idea to get rid of it. But Hannan’s hyperbole, backed up with hugely out-of-date statistics, was just ridiculous – even more so than his bullshit claim that 84% of laws come from the EU.

So, over at Liberal Conspiracy, I’ve done a post in the only language right-wingers seem to understand: a US healthcare vs UK NHS cost/benefit analysis.

The results surprised me enough that I’m considering revising my previous preference for part-privatisation of the NHS…

20 Comments

  1. Funny, but attacks on the Canadian system would be more appropriate. After all, Britain’s system works better and more efficiently than Canada’s joke of a health care system.

  2. um, could this be another example of where the UK is much closer to Europe than the U.S.?

  3. As a Canadian and soon to be Liverpool resident as a consequence of getting my Greek passport – I look forward to living uynder the U.K. system of healthcare when you compare it to Canada’s and more specifically Quebec’s. Our hospitals DO NOT SHARE information. Forcing them to conduct tests needlessly and at great waste to the tax payer.

    I personally believe that the free market solution is best if insane lawsuits are left from the picture. There was a time before socialized medecine that doctors often worked pro bono after attaining a certain level of success in their field.

    The threat of lawsuits from opportunistic scoundrels and a corrupt, politically connected pharmaceutical industry killed a perfectly healthy system.

    I do not make the claim that socialized medecine is wrong. I honestly do not know yet. What I do know is that centrally planned medecine can never work. The individual communities should govern themselves…I say this with great pain since Cananda has such a model and I happen to live in a province so corrupt that we are left with a broken system.

    Thank oyu for this piece though. It gives me pause and that is never a bad thing:)

  4. Seriously Nossemonkey, you should check out what the “Fair & Balanced” American right wing have been saying about the NHS and public health care. Those winged monkeys of Murdoch are painting a picture of a health service that pretty much puts down anyone with a condition more severe than a bad cold. The Republican Propaganda machine is truly terrifying.

  5. I just read your crap trashing what you call rightwing republicans here in America. Obamacare won’t compete with the private sector. Government doesn’t need to make a profit. Since Obama took control of the WhiteHouse, our deficit has soared. Just yesterday the OMB announced that the projected 10 year deficit has gone from $8 Trillion to $10 Trillion dollars. Add the Obama run healthcare system, and you can bet that $10 Trillion will be raised a lot higher in the coming years. Government can set the rules for Private industries or insurance companies, making it harder for them to compete with the public option. A majority of American with health insurance are happy with their coverage and don’t trust a government that cant run medicare, Social Security, or the Postal system without hugh deficits, to run the Healthcare system. Obamacare will end up driving the private sector out of business. You also fail to mention that at least 12 to 15 million without insurance are Illegals. If the government were to enforce the immigration laws, and not pander to illegals for their illegal votes, then perhaps the number of uninsured would be far less. Also the Illegals filling up emergency rooms and getting free treatment should be stopped. Only treatment for critical conditiions should be given. Illegals use the emergency room for all their healthcare needs. Maybe they should go back to Mexico for their healthcare needs. If your not living here in the US, you really cant judge how americans are thinking, and calling old folks worried about their healthcare, righwingers is total bullcrap. JMOP

  6. Is there such a thing as a left-wing Republican?

    Other than that, I couldn’t care less about American politics. I’m British – it hasn’t been any of my business since the Revolution. I’m rather surprised that you care about my opinion.

    (Or, should I say, the opinion you think I have based on your decidedly biased interpretation of the couple of sentences of this post that you bothered to read.)

  7. The UK Government has been acting in the same was as the Obama Administration. First let me say I wasn’t a big Bush fan. Bush was more Liberal then some Democratic presidents. Both the UK and the US Governments have run up massive deficits that will do more harm in the long run. Adding Obamacare Costs to the US deficit will only increase the growing deficit. Every poll here in the US concerning Obamacare, shows Americans are against Socialist medicine, that which Obama and his Leftwing cronies are trying to force on the millions of Americans who already have insurance. I personally would prefer torte reform, but the lawyers are in the pockets of most Democratic politicians & probably many Republicans. Democrats are really after total control of American lives. Obamacare will give them access to our bank account information just as the crazy Cash for Clunkers program that was a total flop does when a customer fills out the C4C forms. Thus far only 2% of the C4C money has been given to the dealers. On Monday the C4C ends. Next program I heard being discussed was a Cash for Caskets program. I kid you not. There a lot of madmen in Washington. By the way, part of my earlier comments were in reply to some of the replies you received earlier. Fox news is just one cable network. Liberals have ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, and other media outlets that are all showing dropping ratings because all of these networks continue to suck up to the coolaid that the Obama folks keeps brewing. Finally, It was nice to find a blog accross the pond that I might enjoy reading from time to time. Thanks for being there for us rightwingers.

  8. foxmuldar: I think the essential point is that while the American Republican party likely contains as many rational thinking normal individuals as the Democrats, or any other political party in the West, there are some rabid elements to it, best exemplified by certain individuals within Fox News, Murdoch being the least redeemable element due to his profiteering ways, and O’Reilly being a somewhat more redeemable element, as he seems able to learn the occasional lesson and not blindly follow the party line (that said he certainly isn’t in my GOP top ten).

    I doubt any rational Brit, or really any rational EU resident is overly sensitive or caring regarding American healthcare; America is a big boy now and more than capable of making its own decisions and/or mistakes as it sees fit. However, when the American political parties decide to start using Britain as their whipping boy, spreading slanderous propaganda about British Health institutions, a reaction will undoubtedly follow, and the reaction in this instance has been a single, large, pointy middle finger from the British Isles to our Republican Cousins: the Brits criticse the NHS because they see what is wrong with it, and seek to improve it. The rabid Republican elements aforementioned have branded the NHS socialist murderers, which they have no right to, for no other reason than to undermine the Obama administration.

    Seriously, it is nothing personal, and hardly even political; simply a reaction to the actions of a few rerprehensible individuals who happen to speak loudly enough to pretend they represent the entire American Republican Party (and I am sure equally reprehensible elements, in accordance with basic physical laws, exist on the other side of the Grand Canyon of political affairs that is the US status quo). The long and the short: the UK doesn’t care, just don’t bring us into it.

  9. Torte reform sounds tasty.

    Isn’t the killer argument in favour of European-style medecine that it actually costs less of GDP than the U.S. system? The privats sector is normally more efficient, but there are some serious structural issues with the U.S. system that are killing off any of the benefits that society gets from the free market. I don’t think you need to be a raving “liberal” to accept that.

  10. Insideur: I think the arguments are many, but the clinchers seem to be the 50 million who have no access to healthcare whatsoever, the lamentable levels of healthcare provided by some (likely a minority) of private healthcare operators and the immense increase in the costs of health insurance; claims have been made of increases anywhere in the region of 50% to 150% over the past decade.

    Per head, the NHS costs every British citizen approximately £6 p/a (which corroborates your statement), whereas Americans are paying in the thousands and tens of thousands for insurance. It seems that the concept of a national health service has been somewhat misunderstood, and I gather the fear is that a public health system would destroy the private health system in the US, although the British system has already shown these fears to be unfounded, with a health private and public health care system functioning well alongside each other.

  11. The 50 million number without healthcare the liberals continue to bring up is a bit false. 12 to 15 million are Illegal aliens leaching off the system. We also have millions of younger generation folks that might not feel the need for any health insurance simply because the young usually feel invincible. Another group is in the $50 to $75 thousand a year income, who simply don’t want to pay for health insurance, and maybe are using their income for payments on their home and other bills. Remember the recession and banking crisis started when banks were giving mortgages to folks who shouldn’t have been given any loans. It was Barney Frank and other democrats that pushed the banks & savings & loans such as freddie and fannie, into lending money to anyone who wanted to own a home. Many of those loans were without a dime of down payments. European banks got caught in that mess, thus we have a global recession. So if we drop the Illegals, those with incomes that could afford health insurance but don’t want to pay, and the younger generation who normally have less medical problems, we suddenly have a much smaller number of actual uninsured. Its a fact, that at least 85% of americans have Health insurance, and most are satisfied with what they have. Its no wonder the polls continues to grow in favor of no government public options. Once the government gets in the game, they set the rules, they don’t need to make a profit, just like the post office or medicare. A public option will eventually drive the private sector out of business. Off to work now. Still on a 4 day work week, and no government stimulus is helping the steel plant where I work.
    Good day.

  12. Well, this really isn’t my area of expertise, but I must just point out that propaganda goes both ways. If 10% of the US population were under the poverty threshold, then 30,000,000 US citizens would be hard pressed to afford food, let alone health care insurance, and the US census bureau orroborates the 50 million figure with 45.7 million uninsured in 2007.

    According to a 2005 US government census, the average American family of 2.5 paid nearly $2700 on medical insurance. The median American family of 2 parents and 2 children had a poverty line of $20,000 in 2005 according to research provided by the Economic Policy Institute, thus suggesting that the same family would spend nearer $4000 on health insurance ( (2700/2.5)x4). This would total just under $2400 for a family to live on the poverty line with health insurance (though premiums have slyrocketed since then). According to the US census bureau’s 2007 finding, pre financial crisis, almost 25 (probably about 23.5)% of Americans earned less than 25,000 a year. However, the median household size of this demographic was 2.14, inclining slightly more towards larger families. So, on the basis of the average four person family, around 13-15% of US citizens are unable to afford health insurance prior to the financial crisis, i.e. 45 million people (based on outdated statistics).

    Further to your comments, should earners in the 50-75,000 bracket also forego health insurance to counterbalance mortgage payments, the same 2007 statistics from the US census bureau show that you have 26.86% of the American population who are able to live with health insurance; a damning statistic.

    As regards the banking crisis, the mismanagement of this sector took place under the same administration that is now criticising the concept of free health care. As such, one must ask, as an objective European with a background in history and with no stake or interest in furthering the ends of either American political party, why it is that you trust the same administration which has costed thousands of Americans such as yourself their jobs through the aforementioned mismanagement of the financial sector, and has left you probably quite near the poverty line, likely without the means to make ends meet, let alone cover yourself against a workplace accident, to properly represent you in any branch of government, let alone present you with unbiased facts and arguments.

    I can assure you, living in two countries which currently have public health care systems, that public health care:
    a) Does not kill people for any reason at all
    b) Does not kill of the private sector
    c) Does not create socialism etc.

    I have trouble seeing why public healthcare is met with such staunch opposoition, and I have trouble understanding why you would be so uncaring to the opposing political party to the one that has caused many of the problems of which you have spoken.

  13. Democrats controlled the house and Senate in the past couple of years that Bush was president. Some republicans tried to control the way loans were given out, but deomocrats did have a majority in both houses. I wasn’t a bush supporter. McCain was a terrible candidate to go agains’t Obama. Obama & the Democrats control the Unions. Acorn, SEIU, Steelworks which I am a member, all gave their money to help elect Obama. I got no say in where my union dues went. That sucks, but then thats how it is when your a union member. I have health insurance, and I live in a 40 years old mobile home. I wasn’t one who tried to live above my means and get myself in the mess that so many are in now. So on a 4 day work week, Im still living ok. Actually expecting to be back to 5 days starting sometime next month. yes, many folks are worse off now during the current recession. 9.4% unemployment, but the actual numbers is closer to 14%. 30 million are now on food stamps. I”d bet a big chunk of them are Illegal Aliens. Democrats say Illegals won’t be covered under the public option, but when republicans try to pass a verification bill to make sure employees are not Illegals, Democrats voted that down. Democrats want the hispanic vote, and the Illegals vote since some have been found to be voting Illegally. Obama says the healthcare bill won’t raise the deficit. Government always underestimates the cost of most programs they push forward. Polls continues to show a large disapproval of any healthcare plan. If the Democrats try to ram a bill through, they will pay dearly in the 2010 elections. Old folks vote in the US. The won’t soon forget. Geez I didn’t expect to get into a heated debate with you guy accross the pond. I need a break.

  14. From the Heritage Foundation, a Conservative Think Tank.

    http://blog.heritage.org/2009/08/24/morning-bell-myths-and-facts-about-obamacare/

    Worth checking out.

  15. Fair play, I can imagine you know the situation in the States better than I. However, the point in question was that certain news outlets in the States have been painting a mendacious picture of the UK health service, which happens to have a public and a private option, both of which live healthily alongside one another, and which those news outlets had no right to criticise in the way they did. I think the NHS has done itself proud, despite that fact that it caters for everyone, and that “illegals” get treated without paying taxes. At £6 a year, to be able to walk into most hospitals and get treated is a godsend, and means that I won’t have to spend around 20% of my meager salary on health insurance (if I’m lucky!). Whether or not this system is feasible, beneficial or even necessary in the US is a different matter.

    Frankly I’m not a big fan of US politics, if you’re right wing you’re automatically a gun toting devout Christian nazi nutcase, and if you’re left wing you’re a pinko communist fag who wants to murder children and kill anyone who earns money, and the partisan propaganda that comes with each is just a little too much too handle. Again, if you check out The Fox Nation, you’ll see what I’m referring to, and it’s the rabidity, lies and reactionism that leave me unable to either care, or cast any valid judgement on anything American. However, when it comes to the NHS, nobody gets the right to slam it without paying their £6 a year!

  16. I think everyone has the right to slam it whether they pay the £6 (?) a year or not. It`s the right of people using it who haven`t paid into it that should be stopped.

  17. $6 pounds, am I reading that right? Sounds like a good deal if thats the price. Heck, even Illegals should be able to afford that price. I admit I watch Fox most of the time. Glenn Beck is a favorite of mine. he tells it like it is, and he has the facts to back him up. If he were lying about acorn, SEIU, and Obama connection to them, Im sure someone would have slapped a legal suit against him. Beck is more of a independent conservative. he trashes both parties often. As for NHS, I don’t live in UK so I can only go on what some of you have been saving about it. If you like it, that hey thats great. I really haven’t seen much talk about NHS lately other then that brief negative report by one of your countrymen. I count maybe 3 positive comments on NHS on your site, and the one negative by the gentleman on Fox. Guess thats not much really to go on, but Im glad you like what you have. If you want to talk the 12 to 15 million ILLegals we have in the states, thats ok with me. Not do they only get free healthcare, but most get free education, and other goodies that were ment for legal citizens. Oh I did forget to mention the State run healthcare program In the state of Massachuetts. Its been ongoing since Governor Romney was there. Well this year, the healthcare program is showing a large deficit. What did they suggest doing? They wanted to take the Legal Immigrants off the coverage. Not Illegals but legal Immigrants. I kid you not. I haven’t been following it lately, but its a small example of how a government run program here in the states, can get out of control in a quick way.

    Ok thats it for me on this Healthcare thing. Im going crazy now. I’ll need healthcare shortly. lol

    Cheerio!

  18. Robin: You are right of course, free speech et al. However, having a bunch of worthless hacks claim our health care system murders the old for profit having heard about it a mere twenty minutes prior is an abuse of free speech. I don’t go around telling the world how stupid your hair looks; I didn’t cut it, I haven’t seen it and I haven’t done any research on it.

    Foxmuldar: The NHS doesn’t discriminate between patients either, and immigration, legal or not, for health care to the UK has long been a bone of contention among politicians and the public. As I’m sure you’ll find if you look into it a little, immigration itself is quite an emotional topic in the UK; we recently had two rather right wing Ministers elected to the European Parliament. I don’t think the problem in the US is mendacity (as mentioned) so much as partisanship, misrepresentation and sometimes flagrant abuse of the truth. It seems that Democrats are often too unwilling to listen to Republicans, and vice versa; I’ve seen a few debates on the issue and there is always an unbridgable gap between the Democrat and Republican speaker (last one I saw was Tommy Thomson Elizabeth Edwards duking it out and agreeing on virtually nothing). It seems that not only are the priorities of both parties wildly different, they appear often to be wildly misunderstood and strongly opposed by the other party (as opposed to accepting the situation and cooperating for the improvement of the nation).

    Of course I’m no expert in US politics, but it would often appear more like the two parties are there to consistently undermine each other, and perhaps the only thing stopping full blown war is civility, or the scar of ’61-’65. I’ve seen comments from both sides, and it seems more than just friendly sparring; death threats, plans for insurrection and lynching to name but a few. As for going crazy, we’re all pretty much there anyway.

  19. Foxmuldar – By “the gentleman on Fox” I assume you mean Daniel Hannan?? His views as expressed on Fox have caused a major row in the UK, with his own (centre-right) party leadership disowning them. Hannan is about as representative of ordinary Brits’ views on the NHS as a Bolivian tree frog would be of a New Yorker. He doesn’t even live in Britain – he’s an MEP, so lives in Belgium most of the time.

    As for alternative views to his, you mentioned him versus three people here saying the NHS is actually quite good. To those three you can add the several thousand who joined the #welovethenhs campaign on Twitter.

    As I say, I couldn’t care less about what America does with its health service, and long ago gave up following American politics due to the sheer insanity and rabid partisanship of most of the debates (this bizarre insistence you seem to have in the states that your political opponents aren’t just wrong, they’re actively evil makes me despair for humanity – it’s just so blatantly, childishly stupid). But accusing the NHS of being “evil” as Sarah Palin did is taking it too far. It’s none of her business and none of America’s business to attack the NHS – especially when the attacks are based upon lies.

    The NHS isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a perfect health service – there are all kinds of problems bubbling under the surface. But it works nicely for us, and – as far as I’m concerned, most importantly – covers the *entire* population (including foreigners on holiday here, “illegals”, you name it) for a lower per capita cost than the US is currently forking out on its non-universal healthcare system.

    The moral? People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  20. Hello again,

    I wasn’t expecting to be back posting on the NHS but a recent article on the Heritage Foundation site caught my attention. I thought you might like reading it. http://blog.heritage.org/2009/09/07/a-false-idol/

    A False Idol

    Posted September 7th, 2009 at 9.00am in American Leadership, Health Care.

    The National Health Service is like a deity in Britain. Or so we are told. Irish actor and director, Graham Linehan – a very funny man – has taken to defending the NHS by saying that American criticisms of it are “like if you criticize your parents. You can do it – but if anyone else criticized them you’d murder them.” That’s not going to keep life expectancies up. The Economist, for its part, offers up the plea “God save the NHS.” So much for the Queen, apparently.

    There is something distinctly off-putting in this worshipful attitude. The NHS is not the English Bill of Rights, or the First Amendment. It is not a statement of eternal truths. It is a bureaucratic organization intended to serve a particular purpose. If it does not serve that purpose well, then it should be changed. The outraged responses to American – and British – criticisms of the NHS have a calculated political purpose: to reject the very thought that the government should not be responsible for running the entire health care system.

    But the criticisms keep on coming. Yesterday saw the leaking of a report by McKinsey, the consulting firm. McKinsey had been asked to advise the NHS on how it could save 20 billion pounds – about 35 billion dollars – by 2013/14. That’s only three budget cycles away, so saving that kind of money is a tough target. McKinsey’s conclusion: “NHS hospitals in England are rife with waste and inefficiency,” with low staff productivity, too many admissions, wasteful procurement, and heavy debt burdens thanks to bad financing.

    The problem with financing comes as no surprise: the British armed forces suffer from a similar problem. What is really surprising is where the cuts in the NHS will come. According to McKinsey, the NHS needs to lose 137,000 jobs, or 10% of its workforce. While 30,000 administrators will go, so will over 100,000 medical professionals. Medical school places would be reduced to avoid an “oversupply” of doctors, and older doctors and nurses will be encouraged to retire. Acute care will be the hardest hit: McKinsey projects it will lose 38% of its budget. There would be further savings if procedures with “limited clinical benefit” – such as tonsillectomies, varicose vein removal and some hysterectomies – were decommissioned.

    The government, to put it politely, has not given McKinsey’s proposals a terribly enthusiastic reception. But dilemmas like this one are what you get when you let the government run the entire health care system: either you pay for everything, at the cost of untold inefficiencies and an eternal struggle to balance the books, or you decide that things would be much more affordable if you let some more doctors go and cut back on the tonsillectomies. Not an enviable choice. Britain may treat the NHS as a deity, but the McKinsey report reveals, yet again, why single-payer systems are a false idol.

    Foxmudar comment: Well it seems that when the consulting firm McKinsey gives their thoughts on cutting spending, the British government brushes it aside. And of course if they were to implement the changes by cutting 100,000 medical personal, well we all know who suffers in the end. I would expect similiar moves by the Obama Administration if he gets his Public Option plan in operation. Right now Obama and his Socialist/Democratic party are once again trying a new tactic. They are calling it the a Trigger. Basically if insurance companies don’t meet up to the standards or rules the Democratic congress applies to the Trigger. Then the Trigger is pulled and the Public option is installed. Geez when you can make the rules that gurantee Insurances companies won’t reach those goals, its easy to see the final outcome. Government Run healthcare. Add 40 to 50 Million uninsured suddenly to the insured list. and the waiting line to see a doctor has got to become very long.

    Its a holiday here in the states, Labor day. It was once a day to celebrate the working man. Now its just another day for Obama to suck up to his Union buddies. Oh did I mention that if Obamacare passes, the Unions get $10 Billion for their underfunded retirement healthcare programs. Geez isn’t it nice how bribes can go a long way.

    Foxmuldar