The American Healthcare Reform Debate

I’ve been flipflopping on whether or not to blog about the US healthcare reform debate, and I’d pretty much decided to leave it alone until Gallifrey Base (I love Doctor Who!) linked to a College Republican National Committee blog calling for people to post public healthcare horror stories from the UK, Canada and other countries with ‘socialist’ healthcare systems. This is a concern, mainly because it’s asking for examples of the bad rather than trying to make a balanced contribution to the debate – you can disagree with President Obama all you want, that doesn’t mean you have to seek out NHS horror stories to make your point. However, in all fairness to the CRNC, they’ve kept the comments page up despite most of them not exactly being on message – that at least shows some integrity.

So, I guess if you have an NHS horror story you can go there and post it, but if you have a positive experience of public healthcare, then I’d encourage you to also post that. I love America, and I love most of the Americans I’ve met, from online friends to that crazy taxi driver in San Francisco, and it’s starting to annoy me just how badly the UK and the healthcare debate are being misrepresented, from calls for horror stories to the exclusion of the positive stories, to the whole Stephen Hawking debacle. It’s down to the Democrats and President Obama to defend their healthcare reforms, that’s nothing to do with me (and frankly, if they’re letting the debate sink to this level already, they politically deserve all they get, although my heart breaks for anyone pinning their hopes on this reform), but this whole mess has made me feel a degree of national pride and defensiveness. I’m a Brit, that doesn’t happen often; we only break out the patriotism for wars and football…

For the record, this is my post to the CRNC blog:

I’m somewhat concerned that, in the interests of political debate, the original blog only requested stories that would support a pre-existing point of view, which smacks of an attempt to generate propaganda rather than fairly assess the relative merits of healthcare systems. However, I’d like to echo the poster who thanked the blog for keeping the comments, despite a majority of them not supporting the original premise.

As a British citizen, I’m happy to admit the NHS has problems – of course it does. I would, however, say that it serves the needs of the majority of people in an effective and caring way, and that any horror stories are more likely to be isolated incidents rather than evidence of wholesale disaster. On a personal note, I have nothing but praise and respect for the NHS staff who nursed my father through his terminal illness. My grandmother receives homecare through the NHS. On another note that doesn’t seem to have been raised much, I have friends who work for the NHS, and I find the current slandering of them and thousands like them to be infuriating. I hope that the responses to this blog will inform the debate and, while not necessarily changing anyone’s mind, will at least prompt a discussion based on the merits or failings of President Obama’s healthcare plan rather than seeking horror stories from Europe or Canada.

I hope this blog and its comments section remains open, and that it helps open the eyes of some in the US who need to see that the real debate over healthcare remains in the US, rather than in searching out horror stories from other countries. It’s really not helping perceptions over here, and as UK and US forces are serving alongside each other in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’d hope our nations could have a more mature relationship than becoming each others’ bogeyman…

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