Are Conservatives Really This Confused About Health Care Plans?

The Daily Mail has an article on problems in the British health care system–a system I’ve also been critical of. It came as no surprise to review the conservative blogs and see them attempt to use this as evidence against Democratic health care plans. Some call this evidence against a single payer plan, but a single payer plan and a government run plan are two separate things. A government run plan is one form of a single payer plan, but is quite different from the plans advocated by most proponents of single payer plans in this country who advocate plans such as extending Medicare where health care is still provided by private doctors and hospitals.

Of the Democratic candidates running this year, only Dennis Kucinich has been pushing a single payer plan, and this plan is nothing like the British government-run plan. Assuming Kucinich has no chance at winning, a single payer plan isn’t even on the table. Right Wing News tries to confuse the British system with Hillary Clinton’s plans. While I’ve had disagreements with Clinton over health care, her plan is neither government-run or even a single payer plan.

While comparison of the British plan to the plans advocated by Democratic candidates is erroneous, it is valid to use this as arguments against the views of Michael Moore. I previously noted that a failing of Sicko was that, while it was of value in demonstrating health care problems in this country, it white washed the problems in other countries. It is worth noting that Moore, who advocate a government run plan, has opposed the plans of all the Democratic candidates, believing that Kucinich comes the closest but does not go far enough.

Conservatives regularly try to scare people from considering any reforms to the health care system by screaming “socialized medicine.” When they draw false comparisons between the British system and the plans advocated by Democratic candidates, I wonder if they are knowingly resorting to scare tactics or if they really have this little understanding of different forms of health care delivery. Either way, the views of those who regularly confuse these systems are hardly worth considering.


  1. 1
    Ms. Missive says:

    I’m equally as shocked that the conservatives are still holding onto the old “socialized medicine” scare tactics. It seems so obvious to me that government run health care is most beneficial route for Americans today.

    As for the British system, I admit that my only knowledge comes from Mr. Moore. I realize that all systems have their problems, but I suppose it’s a matter of choosing the lesser of the evils. And right now, I think the Brits are winning.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Also keep in mind that there are other alternatives between our current system and the British system. When conservatives scream “socialized medicine” they hope to make people think that the choice is the status quo or moving to the worst imaginable system.

  3. 3
    Boy says:

    I’m British and I’d like to say that whilst the NHS has its problems it seems to be beating the treatment my American girlfriend is getting from her insurance.

    I can choose whichever GP I am most comfortable with. My girlfriend may only choose doctors from the list she is given. Since she has had to change podiatrist recently (she has an ankle condition and her job’s new insurance company do not allow her to see her old one) I’m scoring that one for the UK.

    Whilst her employer does pay for her medical insurance I can only think that this is reflected in a slightly lower salary. The NHS is paid for through my taxes, but the 1997 WHO rankings show that American care is far more expensive, making me the better-off in the couple. Scratch up another one for good old Blighty.

    Whilst we’re talking about my girlfriend, she has to pay for birth control whereas if she were a UK citizen she would be able to get it free. One would think that if people in the US got so annoyed over abortion then birth control would be more abundant, but apparently not. I’m, selfishly, marking that as another point for the UK.

    In the UK one can campaign to save a local hospital since its administration is handled by the local Primary Care Trust, a political body. In the US you could live next to a private hospital and have no say over whether it stays or goes. Hmm, UK again?

    The NHS’ level of care is higher than America’s in the same rankings (WHO, 1997). The National Health Service is the gift that keeps giving it seems.

    Yes we’ve had decades of under-investment, and in particular NHS dentistry is chronically under-staffed (yes, the English, bad teeth, I’ve heard it all before 🙂 ) but with economic migration from the new EU member-states we’re quickly overcoming the staffing problems and hopefully at some point in the future we will have a government which understands that whilst low taxes are a good thing they are not good at the expense of public infrastructure. I’m young and healthy but one day I will probably need a hospital, and on that day I want that hospital to be perfect. I don’t consider it to be unfairly subsidising the unhealthy since I will gain a peripheral benefit from the NHS being at that level of high practise.

    Public/Private Partnerships, or PPPs, are another problem with the NHS. The Labour government have paid companies to build hospitals which the NHS will then rent for a fixed term before ownership reverts to the builders. I don’t understand why this is a good idea other than it allowed Labour to say they had built a load of new hospitals.

    Poor people can get jobs. In fact, they are amongst the people who need jobs the most. But if they’re all lingering with long-term health problems they aren’t likely to be able to get one and so contribute to the economy.

    As game theory shows, when a game goes on over time the best play tends to be to play nice. Short-sighted, short-term self-interest is going to break America, if it hasn’t already.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    Whether someone is limited in choice of physicians depends upon their plan. Of course the fact that a significant number of people are in this situation could be used as a point in favor of the British system, but I wanted to make sure you realize that not all Americans are in this situation. Fortunately there has also been a trend away from such restrictive programs, but many still exist.

    Some plans cover birth control and some don’t. Often an employer will have the choice of whether they want to pay to have it included.

    We do have a strange attitude towards birth control here as the same religious factions which oppose abortion also oppose birth control. Along similar lines another unfortunate effect of the religious right’s influence here is in opposing programs to send condoms to Africa to attempt to reduce the spread of AIDs.

    The question of hospitals closing isn’t very important. In the US, profit incentives often led to over building. In recent years the trend has been towards mergers achieve better economies of scale.

    “hopefully at some point in the future we will have a government which understands that whilst low taxes are a good thing they are not good at the expense of public infrastructure.”

    This gets at one of the problems in going to such a system in the US. Great Britain has a much stronger tradition than the US of public services at the cost of higher taxes, and yet this is already a problem here. The drive for tax cuts regardless of the consequence is a far greater problem here. Republicans are pressured to sign pledges that they will never raise taxes. There is too much risk in the US of a government run system being severely underfunded.

    While on many levels it is less efficient, we often need the private system to keep the government system honest. For example, by law Medicare (which covers everyone over 65 and the disabled who qualify) has a formula which calculates physician payment. The formula is severely flawed and for the last several years would result in significant decreases in payment. Every year professional organizations convince Congress that if they allow the reduction to go through physicians will cut back on seeing Medicare patients, creating political pressure not to allow Medicare payment to fall any further behind private payment. If we didn’t have the private insurance payment to compare it to, and if physicians didn’t have the ability to reduce the number of Medicare patients due to having private insurance patients, there would be far less pressure on Congress to override the cut every year. If the cuts did go through in such a system quality would suffer greatly.

  5. 5
    The Charters Of Dreams says:

    Hey Ron,
    I’m sure you’re correct that there are significant differences between the British & Canadian plans and the plans advocated by Democratic candidates. But this raises a host of troubling questions:

    1. Why aren’t the British & Canadian plans good enough as is? If nationalizing health care is both the only moral and practical way to go, while no “system” is perfect, can the British & Canadian plans be that badly implemented that the Democratic candidates are trying to distance themselves as much as possible?

    2. If this is true, the next question is — why can’t the British & Canadians fix things? The private sector is a failure, right? Nationalizing health care is THE answer, right? How hard can it be to get it right? It’s stories like this that worry people (like me):

    “Patients pull own teeth as dental contract falters” (The Guardian, 10 . 15 . 2007):

    Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: “Eight years after Labour promised that everyone would have access to an NHS dentist, this survey shows the system is at breaking point.

    Eight years!!!?? Come on!!! What’s the problem? Or is it just the British & Canadians’ problem –not ours — because we Americans are much smarter then the British & Canadians, and we know how to solve such problems. Is that the response?

    Really Ron — what are the real difference between existing real-world nationalizing health care systems and Democratic promises? Why should I be assured that American bureaucracy will be better providing heath care than anyone else ever has?

    3. Finally, if the British & Canadian plans are better then what we have now — the hell with it then. Just implement the damn plans now. What is there to think about? The debate is over, right?

    You’re obviously a smart motivated guy. You should blog on this — because this IS the debate; these ARE the questions (at least they’re my questions). It’s not enough to say the Democratic plans are different and therefore the debate is over.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Your questions are based upon a number of erroneous assumptions, beginning with the belief that nationalization of the health care system, or a system similar to the British or Canadian system, is the goal. The goal is to preserve and improve the private system to expand access to it, not nationalize the health care system.

    I guess you answer my question, as you appear to be quite confused about the health care systems and what is being proposed.

3 Trackbacks

Leave a comment