There has been a huge fuss in parts of the US left-wing blogosphere and commentariat after a dumb comment in Investor’s Business Daily, suggesting that Stephen Hawking would not have survived under the NHS. For those Americans not especially familiar with scientific academia it is an understandable error – he ‘speaks’, after all, with an American accent (which he chose to keep when offered a new English-accented speech synthesiser, as he by then identified with that voice).
It seems some of the howling criticism is far more flawed than the original article, which at least had a valid point despite the erroneous example.
Hawking himself, an old leftie, makes a ridiculously claim that he “... wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS”, but no apparent attempt to justify that assumption.
Ezra Klein claims that the IBD was telling lies, a truly inane suggestion; if they had known Hawking was British then they would never have published the article. It is not as if there was any chance of the error slipping by unnoticed!
Yes, the article does over-simplify the calculation NICE makes of the value of extended life or improvement in quality of life. However nuanced it might be, that calculation is still made, and the monetary figure given is roughly correct. The inclusion or exclusion of nursing care is irrelevant to those whose life (or quality of life) is dependent on drugs or surgery, and they pay the same into the system. Who is to say they should suffer?
The wonderfully-named (and it appears otherwise sensible) Donklephant* suggests that talk of rationing is an intellectually-bankrupt scare tactic. Here is where my tale is told.
I was earning in total roughly £4-6000 below average wage (depending on weather, luck and economics). I was employed part-time, paid for time I worked, so I could also work self-employed in other capacities. Therefore I was only paid as and when I worked, and simply could not afford to take time off.
I hurt my back. I could not physically work more than an hour or two in my employment, and legally was unable to work at all in the role I was hired for self-employed. I had a choice, which was to wait six weeks to see a consultant, then an indeterminate time (by previous experience a modest three weeks in that area of the country, but no guarantee) for physiotherapy, or pay for a consultation and physio, a total the thick end of £500, which I did not have spare.
Of course I paid; what did you think, I could afford to drop my pay by 70% for a couple of months?
What is that but rationing? Waiting is still rationing, whether the patients rationed out of play recover without treatment, give up and accept chronic illness, pay for private care or die. That is still rationing.
The final insult was the VAT on part of my bill (I needed an assessment to prove I could do my job, and although treatment is VAT-free that was not), 17.5% going to pay for people paid more than I to receive healthcare I could not have.
This might be only one example, but in order to destroy the entire left-wing basis of the NHS there is only need of one counter-example. How can anyone possibly justify charging me tax to pay for the NHS under those circumstances?
*Donkey = Democrat, Elephant = Republican, for those less familiar with US politics.
Update: the Telegraph has an excellent article on the NHS with reference to US healthcare.