Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I know that the standard of debate in the US hasn't exactly been stellar for a while, but I'm finding myself getting increasingly annoyed with the fact that we on this side of the pond are being dragged into the mudslinging. According to the American right wing, we live in some kind of dystopian nightmare state, where government bureaucrats decide whether or not we get medical treatment on the basis of our worth to society.

I feel I should put it on record here that that is not the case. We don't leave the old and infirm to die. Last year my great uncle had an extremely complex experimental heart operation at the age of 90, -- he didn't have to pay anything. My grandmother will soon be having a hip replacement at the age of 84. The NHS is not a terrifying monster -- it's not perfect, and yes, there are waiting lists, but it's cheaper, fairer, and delivers better public health outcomes than the US system. Unlike my friends in the US I don't have to worry about what will happen if I get sick or hurt myself, about affording copayments, or losing my health insurance if I change jobs.

A little example of how healthcare rolls over here: Last year I badly hurt my knee. It wasn't a life threatening injury, nor was it painful to the point where I couldn't work, but it hurt a lot and it left me walking with a Igor-style limp. I saw a general practicioner, then a specialist, then I did a few months of physiotherapy. At no point did I have to pay for anything. Now how would that have gone down in the states? As a non-life-threatening condition, I would not have been able to afford treatment for this on my salary, not even if I had company insurance. Under the US system I would still be walking with a limp. I would be in pain most of the time. I wouldn't be able to go to the gym. I would be fat and unfit again.

Like most people in the UK, I'm happy with the NHS and I'd take to the streets to defend it against anyone who threatened to take it away. This slandering of our system is something that many brits are going to take personally. If the US media is not careful we might start making really barbed remarks. You know, hurtful shit that people won't even realise was an insult until they're on the train home.