Monday, August 17, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #358] Why are Americans so stupid?

OK, OK, harsh subject line, especially assuming the likely view of most of you, but I just get so angry that I can't help but lash out. And it doesn't even directly affect me! But it's things like this about America that make my skin crawl and make we want to pull the soothing, sensible duvet that is Europe over my head and stay in bed.

I remember 'round the Hillarycare times, the stories on the news about Canadians waiting months for life-saving surgeries and the like, and I guess that is the message that is winning over the minds of the people. As someone who's now lived under private care and public care, I can tell you that you are being misled. It's impossible to describe how liberating it is to not have to worry about your health care; to know that even when you are down at your lowest and most unfortunate and penniless, you are just as covered as when you are at the top of your game. It's just something you don't have to think or worry about.

Since moving here, I've never had to wait to see a doctor when I needed one, and never an undue amount for unnecessary stuff, like my dermatology and teeth check-ups. I am sure there are anecdotal stories where people have had to wait - and maybe it was more common in the past, I can't say. But I never hear of any egregious delays. And I'd bet you £20 that if there are long delays, it's a whole lot less frequent than American insurance companies declining coverage for procedures.

It saddens and frustrates me to see this great opportunity being lost, again, because of the overpowering influence of those who will never have to worry about health care. But where are those 40 million uninsured Americans? Why aren't you out in the streets protesting for universal coverage? I'm not hearing a peep out of you, just a whole lot from the other side. I'm covered, I don't have to worry. You do.

I <heart> the NHS,

Shaun




The articles below are just for your interest, if you feel like reading them - but this bit from the second one sums it all up.

The most recent row erupted after an editorial at the Investors Business Daily (IBD) launched an attack on the British National Health Service (NHS), as a warning against what could happen if the US adopted such a model.

"The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary," the article said. "The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script."

The article's author went on to assert that "people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman quickly pointed out, Prof Hawking was born in the UK, and has lived and worked there for his entire life.

And UK newspapers the Guardian and Daily Telegraph reported Prof Hawking as saying that he "wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS".



The New York Times


August 17, 2009

'Public Option' in Health Plan May Be Dropped

PHOENIX — The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama's call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector, signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate.

The "public option," a new government insurance program akin to Medicare, has been a central component of Mr. Obama's agenda for overhauling the health care system, but it has also emerged as a flashpoint for anger and opposition. Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said the public option was "not the essential element" for reform and raised the idea of the co-op during an interview on CNN.

Mr. Obama himself sought to play down the significance of the public option at a town-hall-style meeting on Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., when a university student challenged him on how private insurers could compete with the government.

After strongly defending the public plan, the president suggested that he, too, viewed it as only a small piece of a broader initiative intended to control costs, expand coverage, protect consumers and make the delivery of health care more efficient.

"The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," the president said. "This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."

For Mr. Obama, giving up on the public plan would have risks and rewards. The reward is that he could punch a hole in Republican arguments that he wants a "government takeover" of health care and possibly win some Republican votes. The risk is that he could alienate liberal Democrats, whose support he will also need to pass a bill.

On Sunday, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, affirmed his support for the public option. "I believe the inclusion of a strong public plan option in health reform legislation is a must," Mr. Rockefeller said in a statement. "It is the only proven way to guarantee that all consumers have affordable, meaningful and accountable options available in the health insurance marketplace."

White House officials say the president has not abandoned the idea of a pure government plan, a central feature of the legislation moving through the House. But Ms. Sebelius's comments did seem to open the door, and at least one Democrat close to the White House said the administration was well aware that, with moderate Senate Democrats opposed to the idea of a public plan, Mr. Obama might have to give up on the notion to get a bill through.

"The president is going to continue to try to persuade everyone of the great value of having a true public plan," said this Democrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid discussing strategy publicly. "But at the end of the day, I believe he recognizes that there are other, arguably less effective, ways to achieve greater coverage, more choice, better quality and lower cost in our system."

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, said the president remained convinced that a public plan was "the best way to go." But Mr. Axelrod said the nuances of how to develop a nonprofit competitor to private industry had never been "carved in stone."

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill that features a nonprofit co-op. The author of the idea, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would have no choice but to drop the public option.

"The fact of the matter is, there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option," Mr. Conrad said on "Fox News Sunday." "There never have been. So to continue to chase that rabbit, I think, is just a wasted effort."

The co-op, modeled after rural electric and agricultural cooperatives in Mr. Conrad's home state, would offer insurance through a nonprofit, nongovernmental consumer entity run by its members. Mr. Axelrod said one downside of a co-op, from Mr. Obama's point of view, was that it might be unable to "scale up in such a way that would create a robust" competitor to private insurers.

And whether a co-operative would actually bring Republicans on board with Mr. Obama is unclear. Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican who appeared alongside Mr. Conrad on "Fox News Sunday," called the co-op idea "a step in the right direction," adding: "I don't know if it will do everything people want, but we ought to look at it. I think it's a far cry from the original proposals."

As Mr. Obama envisions it, the public option would be a government-backed plan available to consumers through a health exchange where people could buy insurance, public or private, that best fits their needs. While a public plan might require some government financing to start up, the idea is for it to be financially self-sustaining and require no subsidies, Mr. Axelrod said.

Republicans argue that a public plan would invariably drive private insurers out of business and prompt employers to drop private coverage, pushing people who are already insured onto a plan run by the government. Mr. Obama counters that a public option would keep insurers "honest" by forcing them to compete in the marketplace, although he has said all along he would be open to other ideas.

In her interview Sunday on CNN, Ms. Sebelius was asked if it was time to come up with an alternative to the public option. She replied that the president's main concern was to promote competition with the private sector.

"What's important is choice and competition," she said. "And I'm convinced at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those."

Here in Phoenix, where Mr. Obama is to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday, conservative groups including Americans for Prosperity are planning to protest the health plan. The same groups have turned up around the country at Congressional town-hall-style meetings, which have sometimes turned into shouting matches as opponents denounce him for promoting "socialized medicine."

Mr. Obama is pushing back. As the nation heads into the last two weeks of August, a time when the White House believes many Americans will tune out of the health care debate to take their vacations, he has been waging an intense public relations offensive to convince Americans that the health care system should be overhauled. (He, too, is planning a vacation, to Martha's Vineyard the last week of August.)

In the past week alone, Mr. Obama has held three town-hall-style meetings — in addition to the session on Saturday in Grand Junction, he traveled to Portsmouth, N.H., and Belgrade, Mont. — and devoted his weekly radio and Internet address to health care. On Sunday, he published an opinion article in The New York Times arguing, as he has in recent days, that overhauling the system would result in protections for consumers.

"This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance," Mr. Obama wrote. "I don't believe anyone should be in charge of your health care decisions but you and your doctor — not government bureaucrats, not insurance companies."

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company




Bloggers debate British healthcare

NHS logo
Conservatives accuse the NHS of rationing healthcare

As the US healthcare debate hots up during Congress's summer recess, anti-reform campaigners have been directing criticisms across the Atlantic at the UK healthcare system.

The most recent row erupted after an editorial at the Investors Business Daily (IBD) launched an attack on the British National Health Service (NHS), as a warning against what could happen if the US adopted such a model.

"The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary," the article said. "The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script."

The article's author went on to assert that "people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman quickly pointed out, Prof Hawking was born in the UK, and has lived and worked there for his entire life.

And UK newspapers the Guardian and Daily Telegraph reported Prof Hawking as saying that he "wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS".

Basic stupidity

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein said the IBD article was an example of conservatives "lying" about healthcare.

"It's not just that they didn't know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It's that the underlying point was wrong, as you'll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied."

The New Republic's Jason Zengerle - while endorsing Mr Klein's objections to the IBD's article - was not convinced that the article's author should be given the credit for a conscious lie.

"The point the IBD writer was trying to make would have at least been theoretically plausible if, as the writer believed, Hawking was not British," Mr Zengerle wrote.

It's worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system
Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

"I'm just reluctant to credit the IBD writer with the sufficient smarts to concoct such a lie. Seems like basic stupidity is the easier explanation here."

The IBD's fundamental charge was that President Obama's healthcare plans would lead to the rationing of healthcare, and that rationing is a feature of the British system.

This point was echoed by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin , who warned that "the effects of socialised medicine in Britain - engineered by government-run cost-cutting panels on which Obamacare would be modelled - continue to wreak havoc on the elderly and infirm."

In making this point, Ms Malkin was explicitly re-affirming the assertion made by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, that Mr Obama wanted to create a "death panel" to decide whether the elderly or disabled are "worthy of health care".

Top topic

Liberal bloggers in the US have rejected the accusations made by these prominent conservatives.

Washington Monthly's Steve Benen argued that the healthcare plans put forward by Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats bore no resemblance to the UK system.

"It's worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system. The comparison doesn't even make sense in any substantive way, and the very premise of the IBD attack, which has been widely parroted by the far-right, reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousness."

Matthew Yglesias, blogger for the liberal Centre for American Progress, lamented the fact that Mr Obama was not planning to follow the British example.

"The NHS is a pretty great model and the British are on to something... if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor, trying to reduce exposure to health hazards, and building infrastructure (trains, sidewalks, bike paths, even the dread parks) suited to less sedentary lifestyles. We'd be much better off that way."

The American conservatives' criticisms of the NHS, and an appearance by British Conservative MEP Dan Hannan on Fox News , in which he bemoaned the state of healthcare in the UK, has prompted thousands of British Twitter users to rush to its defence.

By early Wednesday evening UK time, the #WeLoveTheNHS hashtag had become one of the top trending topics on the global site.

Some Twitter users, like Luke Richards, offered general words of support.

"I'm proud of our health service. It's one of this country's best achievements of the past century," he wrote.

Others, like Claire Thompson of Reading, highlighted the life-saving treatment that they or their friends and relatives have received.

"My father had heart surgery last year, and my husband's life was saved after a fall - not perfect, but great when it matters," she tweeted.

Most seemed to reflect the feeling that despite its shortcomings, the British remain defiantly proud of the health service in the face of transatlantic criticism.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/americas/8198084.stm

Published: 2009/08/12 22:52:14 GMT

© BBC MMIX


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com


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