No Room at the Maternity Ward

The British National Health Service has big problems that, as I understand it, stem less from the system itself than from massive underfunding of the system. Brits are trying to get by on the cheap, and it shows. To illustrate, here is Figure One from the University of Maine’s “The U.S. Health Care System: The Best in the World, or Just the Most Expensive?” (PDF).

The figure shows spending for health care per capita in various nations, in 1998. I added “USA” and “UK.” In 1998, the U.S. was spending $4,178 per capita and the UK was spending $1,461 per capita. I understand that in recent years the Brits have been increasing their spending on NHS, but it takes a long time to make up for years of underfunding.

I bring this up because one cannot fairly compare the U.S. and U.K. systems without considering the funding issue. This does not, of course, stop righties from comparing them.

Today some righties are hyperventilating about a story in the Daily Mail — “Father delivered baby after partner was turned away from NHS hospital – TWICE.” A laboring woman was sent home because, she was told, there were no beds available in the maternity ward. Eventually her husband delivered the baby at home.

John Hawkins writes in “Will Hillarycare Mean Delivering Your Own Baby?“:

The Left’s push for socialized medicine in this country shows how dogmatic, impractical, and incapable of logical thinking that they have become. After hearing horror story after horror story like this one coming out of nations like Britain and Canada, why in the world do Democrats like Hillary Clinton want to emulate the health care systems that produced them?

Actually, no one I know of, including Senator Clinton — well, maybe Dennis Kucinich — is talking about emulating the Canadian single-payer system or the British NHS system, both of which have some snags. Senator Clinton’s health care proposal is entirely different; similar to the “Massachusetts” plan, which I understand is also similar to the way Switzerland handles health care. I still say the French model is the one to follow, however.

But I do love the way righties can’t let go of Canada and Britain whenever they go on a health care rampage.

Don Surber asks, “What kind of country has hospitals that turn down a pregnant woman like that?”

FYI, it’s standard procedure in most, if not all, U.S. hospitals to send laboring women home if the birth is judged to be several hours away. Women are told they will be more comfortable at home, but the real reason is to prevent laboring women from taking up too many beds. And sometimes, the hospital is wrong. This public attorney documents a District of Columbia case:

A pregant woman came to the hospital with labor pains and intermittent contractions. She was sent home and returned about two hours later in active labor. After she returned, there were signs of fetal distress. Experts for the family testified that patient should never have been sent home because the fetal monitor strip was nonreactive and that an emergency cesarean section should have been done when she returned to the hospital.

If you just start asking mothers about their childbirth experiences, it won’t take long before you hear the story about how she was sent home from the hospital, then went back later the same day to have the baby. It happens all the time. And sometimes they don’t make it back in time, and the baby is born in the back of the station wagon at the intersection of First and Pine.

Knee-slapper of the week: Kim Priestap writes at Wizbang:

Thank God I live in America where access to health care is plentiful.

LOL! Oh, that’s good. (Wipes eyes.) Those righties have some sense of humor.

Let’s talk about the number of hospital beds per capita, which is a nice indicator of who’s got “plentiful” access to health care. In fact, I found another chart.

Who’s Number One? Switzerland, with 18.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people.

France is #9, with 8.4 beds per 1,000 people .

The UK is way down the charts at #23 (4.1 per 1,000 people), followed at #25 by Canada (3.9 per 1,000 people).

And I’m proud to say the U.S. is, um — wait a minute, where is the U.S? — oh, there we are. Number Twenty-Seven. The U.S. has 3.6 hospital beds per 1,000 people.

You’ll be glad to know we beat Turkey and Mexico.

I’m so sorry that, as a leftie, I’m so dogmatic, impractical, and incapable of logical thinking on health care. I lack the clear-eyed vision of righties, which tells them “US Good, Everybody Else Bad.” That does make it simple. I have this compulsion to look at actual facts and data and stuff, which always confuses issues.

BTW, if you want to know how the Brits view our health care system, see Suzanne Goldenberg, “Expensive and divisive: how America is losing patience with a failing system” from The Guardian, September 13, 2007. Be sure to look at the pictures, too.

Fun and Games With FISA

I haven’t been following the FISA legislation as closely as others, but it seems to me the whole issue is a damn mess that doesn’t make either party look good.

The Republicans clearly are not interested in actually protecting us from terrorism. Their sole objective is to spin FISA as an issue to bash Democrats. The Carpetbagger explains that Republicans offered silly, redundant amendments as means to insinuate that the Dems aren’t serious about preventing al Qaeda from attacking the U.S.

Got it? The Republicans are less interested in protecting Americans from terrorism than they are in accusing Democrats of not being serious about protecting Americans from terrorism.

The Carpetbagger:

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a member of the Republican leadership, introduced an amendment to “clarify” that nothing in the bill “shall be construed to prohibit the intelligence community from conducting surveillance needed to prevent Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or any other foreign terrorist organization…from attacking the United States or any United States person.” The amendment lacked any and all substance — for the purposes of legislation, Cantor’s measure was a childish little game.

But it was a painful reminder that legislating like a child can sometimes be successful.

Cantor’s shallow amendment was ridiculous for a couple of reasons. First, it was obviously intended to scuttle the legislation. Lawmakers didn’t want to be in a position of voting for an amendment, no matter how ridiculous, that might be construed as “weak” on terrorism. But if the amendment passed, procedurally, it would sent the entire bill back to committee and delay the process considerably.

Second, Cantor’s little game was redundant — the legislation already included grown-up language that achieved the same goal.

    [I]t turns out that the FISA legislation may already accomplish what Cantor said he wanted to accomplish with his amendment — that is, it has provisions in it that allow the intelligence community to do whatever surveillance they need in the event of an imminent terror attack.

    Here’s what Dem Rep. Jerrold Nadler had to say in his recent statement announcing his backing of the bill: “It also includes emergency provisions, including the ability to get a warrant after the fact, to ensure that the government will never have to stop listening to a suspected terrorist plotting an attack.” […]

    Dem House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has just put out a statement reiterating this point, accusing the GOP of pushing an amendment that is “proposing language already provided in the bill.” And the Associated Press is equally unequivocal, saying that the bill “allows the unfettered surveillance of such groups.”

In other words, Cantor and the GOP were just being stupid, on purpose. As my friend A.L. put it, “The Republicans might as well have offered an amendment ‘clarifying’ that ‘anyone who votes against this amendment is gay.’ That’s about the level of maturity we’re talking about here. It’s the kind of stuff that would embarrass most seven-year-olds.”

But just to add insult to injury, the Republicans followed up with child-like bravado.

“House Democrats have pulled the FISA bill,” Cantor said. “They are so desperately against allowing our intelligence agencies to fight OBL and AQ, that they pulled the entire bill to prevent a vote.”

Got that? According to a House Republican leader, Democrats are treasonous, and pulled a surveillance bill in order to protect terrorists.

We’re dealing with children who are running a major political party in the House of Representatives. It’s painful to watch, in part because the children think they’re clever.

Then there’s the surprising headline in today’s Washington Post: “Senate and Bush Agree On Terms of Spying Bill.” Jonathan Weisman and Ellen Nakashima write,

Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government’s domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.

Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers.

The collapse marked the first time since Democrats took control of the chamber that a major bill was withdrawn from consideration before a scheduled vote. It was a victory for President Bush, whose aides lobbied heavily against the Democrats’ bill, and an embarrassment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had pushed for the measure’s passage.

The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee’s chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush’s director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants. Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that lacked this provision.

Glenn Greenwald:

Let’s just describe very factually and dispassionately what has happened here. Congress — led by Senators, such as Jay Rockefeller, who have received huge payments from the telecom industry, and by privatized intelligence pioneer Mike McConnell, former Chairman of the secretive intelligence industry association that has been demanding telecom amnesty — is going to intervene directly in the pending lawsuits against AT&T and other telecoms and declare them the winners on the ground that they did nothing wrong. Because of their vast ties to the telecoms, neither Rockefeller nor McConnell could ever appropriately serve as an actual judge in those lawsuits. …

… The question of whether the telecoms acted in “good faith” in allowing warrantless government spying on their customers is already pending before a court of law. In fact, that is one of the central issues in the current lawsuits — one that AT&T has already lost in a federal court.

Yet that is the issue that Jay Rockefeller and Mike McConnell — operating in secret — are taking away from the courts by passing a law declaring the telecoms to have won.

As usual, Glenn provides a clear assessment of the legal and constitutional issues surrounding FISA and the telecoms; see also “The truth about telecom amnesty.”