To be British there are certain things one must do at every opportunity: drink tea (whatever the situation), go on holiday abroad and find an English cafe, and complain about anything and everything British-related, meaning the weather, taxes, and, of course, the NHS.
However you have to be British to do any of the aforementioned complaining. Anyone other than a Brit pointing out our flaws… well, it’s just not cricket.
This rule of British-ness has never been so clear as this week as the Americans rush to criticise Obama’s new healthcare plan, holding the NHS up as a perfect example of everything bad.
Members of all political parties are flocking to tweet their support, as British diplomats try to quietly correct the mistruths being spread by the American Right, and the Conservatives try desperately to shut up some of the more extreme, and more vocal, of their MEPs. (Cameron, one presumes, must be shaking in his boots. All those he impressed with his cycling and mini-rooftop-windfarm-thing may now be recollecting slightly clearer the events of the early 90s). Hell, even the Daily Mail are running pro-NHS stories, possibly for the first time in their entire history.
But, perhaps even more surprising than the Mail running positive NHS pieces, is the response of well-educated Americans to the proposals.
Reading a good friend of mine’s Facebook status update, I almost fell off my chair (not as hard a task as one might at first assume: my chair is missing a wheel, meaning I fall off it even when not in a state of surprise).
It seems she believed any step towards “socialised healthcare” would be a step closer to America becoming a third world country. As the last time I checked, the UK is still considered a first world country, I felt this was rather an odd statement.
However, after seeing some of the, uh, “interesting” adverts being bandied around on American TV, one could see how – possibly – a person could get this impression.
Out of curiosity, I asked her to outline her fears of a new healthcare system. Her concerns are outlined here:
- People not contributing to the system, leaving those in work to shoulder the burden
- The government dictating how hospitals are run, and how doctors do their work
- Doctors salaries being cut
- The governments inability to run anything effectively (does this sound familliar?!)
The adverts seemed to have left her with the impression she would have to pay up to 50 per cent tax, as we do in this country (not true), and doctors would have to pay back the loans they had taken for university on a cut salary (doctors in the UK get bursaries for studying, and so have smaller loans).
She was also concerned the countries leaders would have a different standard of healthcare for themselves. I myself am not sure of what the plans are in the States, but we all know Cameron’s son received NHS care during his short life, and Blair’s son was born in an NHS hospital while in office.
The most interesting point was the government having too much influence over healthcare. If anything, a government being in charge of the healthcare system gives voters more of a chance to influence the running of said system, rather than it being run from behind the scenes by a faceless and, in some cases, greedy pharmaceutical company.
Perhaps one of the reasons we moan so much about the NHS is the fact moaning gets us places, and gets us the changes we want. I’d like to see moaning change how a multi-national corporation works.
But, the bottom line of the argument – and there is, I admit, good and bad on each side – is the 50 million or so people in the US with no access to healthcare. That’s practically the entire population of the UK, all having to worry that if they get hit by a bus, they can’t afford the ambulance ride to hospital.
Quite frankly, I would rather be paying higher taxes, and grumbling about the NHS, secure in the knowledge that if I’m hit by a bus, I’m not going to get the added bonus of bankruptcy.