Awhile back I wrote about rightie obliviousness on the national health care issue —
… the Canadian Model is a bugaboo of the Right. Try to discuss national health care with a rightie, and the first sentence out of his mouth will be, â€œYou mean like in Canada?â€ Then he will go off on a tirade about the problems with the Canadian system. (Unless you remind them of the underfunded British system, which is the other good â€œbadâ€ example of a system with problems.)
Here’s a juicy example, although to be fair the rightie discusses the British system first and then switches to Canada. And then he throws in Cuba and comments,
The three socialized systems cited above are the cream of the crop when it comes to government controlled medical care. Clearly, your best bet is not to get sick.
Actually, they are not the “cream of the crop.” The British system has big problems, in large part because Tony Blair’s government is trying to get by on the cheap (see this PDF document, Figure One). The Canadian system also has some problems, which I discussed in the earlier post linked above. But there are several dozen countries with national health care; it isn’t just Britain, Canada, and Cuba. In fact, the only industrialized democracy in the world without national health care is the United States. In fact, just about every place on the planet where the average person owns a microwave has national health care, except the United States.
To righties, all of these systems are just one system, called “socialized medicine,” and they’re all bad, and they’re all just like Hillarycare. But in fact there are huge, whopping, substantial differences among the several systems.
There are some systems, like Britain’s, in which the government employs doctors and runs hospitals and acts as a “gatekeeper.” To use the National Health Service you go to NHS doctors, and since the Brits have very tight cost control some feel the “gate” can be a tad too narrow, as it were. Other nations have a mix of public and private systems. In France, for example, most of the doctors and hospitals are private sector. The government pays for health insurance that a citizen can take to the doctor of his choice to get basic care, and if he wants he can purchase private supplemental insurance to pay for first class treatment.
Righties seem to think that “national health care” means the British system, where you have to literally go to the government for treatment when you get sick. I personally would prefer something like the French system, in which the government doesn’t get involved in health care except to pay bills.
Last year Bradford Plumer wrote,
… the health care debate in America is never going to get very far so long as the conventional wisdom is that health care alternatives in other countries suck. Good point! But it’s also worth asking why this is the conventional wisdom. To some extent, it’s because conservatives, spearheaded by the insurance industry, have bamboozled us into thinking it’s so. … [But] Media coverage of national health care systems in other countries is dismal. … And, as a result, few Americans have even the vaguest idea of what French health care, or Canadian health care, or Swedish health care, is really like.
Recently at TPM Cafe, Matt Yglesias wrote that one reason we get nowhere in our health care debates is that the options presented to us are too limited and narrow.
Arguments against single-payer health care here seem to be two-fold. One, the idea is old and the debate about it therefore “stultified.” Two, the idea represents one pole of the debate and the name of the game is to find third way ideas. The first objection is obviously silly — that an idea is old has no bearing on its merits. The second objection, meanwhile, is easily met. Simply define the “left” pole in the debate as not something like the French or Canadian system, but something like the even more statist system they have in the United Kingdom. The “right” pole continues to be “veneration of free markets.” Ergo, the “center” position is now one in which the public sector provides health insurance but the private sector provides health care and we reject the “false choices” of those who insist we must choose between the NHS and and pure laissez faire.
Alternatively, you can define as your left pole a system like Canada’s where the government provides everyone with insurance and bans private health insurance, leaving the centrist alternative a system like France’s where the government provides everyone with insurance and then lets you buy additional insurance on top of the baseline from the private sector. Everyone can play this game.
France seems to fall between the poles either way.
“Hillarycare,” btw, was based on the German system according to Ezra Klein. It sounds way complicated.
Until we get a progressive majority in Washington ’twill all be but a dream. But in the meantime, just remember that it’s possible for a rightie to see the light and realize the U.S. system isn’t that great, after all. All it takes is for the rightie to lose his health insurance.