Sunday, August 16, 2009

Countering a few Rightwing NHS arguments..

On my initial travels on Twitter, as well as on the blogosphere, I've encountered a few arguments being put forward by righties. The first is that we are stifling debate, that we are refusing to acknowledge differing opinions on healthcare and consider alternatives. The second is the argument being put forward by Guido, that Obama does not intend to implement an NHS style system and therfore does not support the NHS.

So, argument number one. My personal view is that the centrally funded NHS actually works pretty damn well, it's not exactly perfect, but few systems of this size ever are. There are alternatives, but there's little reason to believe that those systems can actually offer better results. Even if they could, there remain the questions of whether such a system could be applied in Britain and also the question of the cost of making such a large scale change. Certainly, the NHS could be improved by little tweaks here and there, but I simply feel that some kind of fundamental reform would just be change for change's sake.

On the argument about Obama, I think it's worth considering the just what a massive change implementing an NHS style system in America would be, both practically and politically. The NHS in the UK was created in a rare moment when the nation, having won a battle for it's very survival was gripped with a massive sense of solidarity. It was this sense of solidarity that allowed the creation of the NHS and it's a tribute to the Labour politicians who created it that they managed to seize this moment to create such a wonderful national institution.

Implementing an NHS the US would be far more problematic; what would happen to the administrative structures, set up to handle an insurance based system? What about all the people who currently work for healthcare insurers, what about their jobs? There are quite serious practical problems. On top of that there are also the political problems, consider for starters the level of political resistance that has already greeted President Obama's very modest healthcare proposals. The political will for such an ambitious project is not there, I think that's unfortunate, but understandable.

Guido is drawing the wrong conclusions from his ruling out of an NHS style system, it's nothing more than an admission of the fact that there are very sensible reasons not to go ahead with an NHS style system.

On a related note, I think this Open Letter by a British Pharmacist sets the perfect tone, heartfelt and passionate but not all arrogant.

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