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NHS attacked as debate over US healthcare reforms rages

13 August 2009

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The NHS is being increasingly maligned by the American right as it is drawn into a bitter debate about healthcare reforms in the US.

Adverts featuring horror stories about UK patients not receiving proper treatment under the NHS are being held up as reasons why universal state-provided care should not be adopted by the US.

The free-market campaign groups adverts, which concentrate on alleged failings in the British system, come as President Barack Obama attempts to tackle the current US model, which leaves around 50 million people uninsured. He hopes that through implementing a series of reforms, state cover can be substantially extended.

However, the discourse is becoming increasingly heated, with a number of town hall becoming slanging matches as opponents label the plans a “descent into socialism”.

And right-wing commentators and bloggers are circulating untruths in a bid to smear the proposals. These include so-called “death panels” that would choose who would be eligible for certain treatments under the reformed system.

No such provisions for a death panel are included in the government plans, yet opponents to the reforms continue to draw a comparison to the UK system, in which they claim patients are denied life saving drugs and treatments due to factors such as age and costs.

A Department of Health spokewoman said: “This information is untrue. The NHS in England provides health services on the basis of clinical need – irrespective of age or ability to pay. The NHS Constitution enshrines these patients’ rights and places a duty on the NHS to promote equality through the services it provides.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

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“Is it really surprising that Americans have this view when theirs was being extolled to the British public as the be all and end all by our former PM?” – Malcolm Wallace, Halesowen

“I lived in the States for 12 years and believe me, their current system is a disgrace for any civilised country. If you have money, fine. Even if you do, your insurance policy won’t cover open-ended chronic diseases. This is simply a case of scaremongering, ill-informed politicians/media, and industry disinformation. Believe me – with so much vested interest involved, Obama will need to be able to walk on water to achieve this goal. I sincerely wish him all the best” – Chris Maude, Reading