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As I said last time, I rather like the look of the ‘turbo-Catholic’ candidate Rick Santorum: but about the NHS he is simply deranged

Orthodox American Catholics seem to think that doctrinaire neo-liberalism is the logical consequence of faith: they’re just wrong

By on Monday, 9 January 2012

Rick Santorum claims that the NHS has 'devastated' Britain (Photo: AP)

Rick Santorum claims that the NHS has 'devastated' Britain (Photo: AP)

Before the American primary season proceeds much further, I need fairly soon to say something more about Rick Santorum. I would normally leave it for a week or two before returning to a subject like this, but we can’t be sure that Mr Santorum will necessarily still be around as a subject for comment by then. A blog like this one is either topical or it’s dead, and everyone seems unanimous in saying that though Santorum is doing well now, he will disappear from the radar at some point, possibly quite soon, since everyone knows that he couldn’t actually win against Obama even were he to be nominated.

I need to add something to my previous remarks from a perspective which not only those on the left in Britain but also most British conservatives – who would, if they had votes in American elections, be more likely to vote Republican than Democrat – probably share. Even those in the UK more temperamentally likely to lean to the American right than the American left would nevertheless have some doubts about most Republican candidates, and certainly about Santorum. I too have my doubts about Santorum, despite the fact that, as Conrad Black put it in this week’s Spectator, he is an “estimable turbo-Catholic”. This is, incidentally, something I would also say about many conservative American Catholics, like George Weigel, who really do seem to believe that orthodox Catholicism inevitably involves hardline economic neo-liberalism, even a full-on neocon stance, a view which seems to me not entirely orthodox (Mr Weigels’s hero, JPII, certainly thought so).

Nowhere is this doctrinaire neoconnery more evident than over the British National Health service, about which (like most American conservatives) Santorum has views which most English conservatives know, however critical they may be of the way in which the NHS is actually conducted, are not only ill-informed but almost deranged.

Santorum actually believes, it seems, that the NHS has “devastated” the UK and that its economic effect was partly responsible for the collapse of the British Empire (actually, the process of dismantling the Empire began in 1947 with the independence of India; the NHS was founded only in 1948 – but let that pass). Asked about this alleged economic devastation, Santorum said that Margaret Thatcher was on record as saying (where, I would like to know? I suspect that this supposed obiter dictum is a neocon urban myth) that if only she hadn’t had the NHS around her neck, she would have been able to do for Britain what Reagan did for America. Santorum seems unaware that it is fairly clear to most people here (whether you are pro- or anti-Thatcher) that her achievements were in fact considerably more radical within the British political system than Reagan’s within the American.

And if Santorum really thinks that British spending on the NHS “devastated” the British economy (incidentally, what does he think his hero George Bush did to the American economy? ), what must American health expenditure have done? The US spends 7.4 per cent of GDP on public healthcare (to which very few are entitled). We spend 7.2 per cent of GDP on the NHS for a system to which everyone in the population has an absolute right, and which most of those (I am one) who actually have any real experience of it, consider pretty effective.

Of course we are all aware that improvements need to be made. The bureaucracy is getting worse, not better. The Oxford hospital system has just installed a new fully computerised appointments system. I have to visit the (admirable) diabetic foot clinic at the Churchill hospital every two weeks. I now keep on getting letters from a computer situated in the John Radcliffe hospital, some miles away. The appointments it gives me are simply crazy. I have just had two letters: the first one gave me an appointment three weeks away: too long. The second I received on Friday, just after I had returned from the Churchill after an appointment which had taken place at 9.30 that morning. The letter was delivered at 12.30pm: it told me that I had an appointment that same day at 12.00pm.

I asked the clinic what I should do about these mad letters: just ignore them, they said; carry on making appointments here, when you come in. We expect the system to collapse; in the meantime, it’s a nuisance we just have to put up with. So, overall, the NHS as a system is still a work in progress. It’s reformable; and bit by bit it will be reformed. And the care (despite the exceptions we all know about) is mostly beyond praise.

Just one last killer fact about the dubious American healthcare system (to which the Obama reforms will in practice make little difference). According to a reputable study published in the American Journal of Medicine, 61% of bankruptcies in the US are caused by the costs of healthcare. I repeat: 61 per cent: it is simply insane. And these people have the infernal gall to equate our system with Soviet Communism (which incidentally had no public healthcare system at all). The abstract of the study is as follows:

BACKGROUND: Our 2001 study in 5 states found that medical problems contributed to at least 46.2% of all bankruptcies. Since then, health costs and the numbers of un- and underinsured have increased, and bankruptcy laws have tightened.

METHODS: We surveyed a random national sample of 2,314 bankruptcy filers in 2007, abstracted their court records, and interviewed 1,032 of them. We designated bankruptcies as “medical” based on debtors’ stated reasons for filing, income loss due to illness, and the magnitude of their medical debts.

RESULTS: Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92% of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10% of pretax family income. The rest met criteria for medical bankruptcy because they had lost significant income due to illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Most medical debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class occupations. Three quarters had health insurance. Using identical definitions in 2001 and 2007, the share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6%. In logistic regression analysis controlling for demographic factors, the odds that a bankruptcy had a medical cause was 2.38-fold higher in 2007 than in 2001.

CONCLUSIONS: Illness and medical bills contribute to a large and increasing share of US bankruptcies.

I have personal reasons to feel strongly about the NHS. It’s quite simple: due to complications deriving from the fact that I am a type two diabetic, I need an appointment with specialist podiatrists every two weeks, and I am on six different kinds of medication. These keep my condition under control but they would be beyond my means. In America I would by now be bankrupt, very ill or dead. Sorry Mr Santorum: you’re just wrong about the NHS. Your system is more expensive than ours and it just doesn’t work for a large proportion of the US population. If I were an American, I might well still vote for you (my ideal American candidate probably doesn’t exist). But the more I look at the American political system, the more profoundly grateful I am to be a British subject.

Post-script

This has nothing to do with US politics, but with a piece I wrote a week or two ago about the CTS edition of the new missal. I have a correction, made necessary by the fact that I was writing before I had had chance to get really familiar with this splendid volume. I wrote that “It would have been nice to have some of the old prayers of preparation and thanksgiving printed at the beginning and end of the missal; but one can simply carry on doing what one has always done, one doesn’t need to be spoon-fed.” Well, these prayers (exactly the ones I was thinking about; St Thomas, St Ambrose, St Clement etc) are indeed given, in both English and Latin, not at the beginning and end of the missal itself, but before (p508) and after (p673) the order of Mass. More logical, really, though not quite so easy to find. Sorry about that: still, it gives me another opportunity to encourage you to go and get your copy if you haven’t already.

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Schulman Sam Schulman

    Won’t argue NHS here.  But – in US bankruptcies (I’m sure it is true everywhere) all debts must be listed, not just the biggest ones, and not just the overdue ones, for the moment of filing.  If the filer owes a mortgage he cannot pay for $60m, and a doctor’s bill he cannot pay for $60, he goes into the 61% figure.  So does the woman with a $60m judgment she cannot pay, but who has just received an invoice from her doctor for $60 which she can pay the day before she files. People who file because of medical bills do exist, of course, and also into the pool.  But that about half the population or more have medical bills, period, is quite likely. 
    An additional point.  People who have massive medical bills because of a treatment for a rare condition  have been treated – so are those few who have been treated despite their having no insurance.  The former would equally likely been simply turned down for treatment by the NHS.  That’s why “most people” you know and I know are pretty happy with NHS.  Most people aren’t very ill.  (But now I’m stepping over the line…)

  • Rob W.

    Dr. Oddie, Pope John Paul II reiterated in Centesimus Annus the importance of subsidiarity and the danger of constructing a welfare state. The very existence of NHS  does not reflect these important principles of Catholic social teaching. Moreover, any socialist system is impossible to sustain. Who will pay for the NHS in the future with the trending of the U.K.’s fertility rate? Health savings accounts is the way to go. Let people keep more of the money they earn to use as they see fit. Beyond that, there will always be a social safety net for those unable to earn and save enough to provide for their own health insurance. You say that Rick Santorum is deranged for criticizing the Leviathan state. It’s all of Europe that is deranged for driving toward the cliff with it’s unsustainable socialist programs. Something’s gotta give, Dr. Oddie.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq8_EkupU5A Bellator

    On social-policy he is great, anybody who gets attacked by Abe Foxman for being Christian is alright in my book. But and its a big but, his advocacy of a neocon-Zionist foreign policy in Iran spoils it all. Pat Buchanan should have a word in his ear.

  • David Lindsay

    Santorum embodies the tendency of a significant section of the Italian-American community to become Republicans because they found their local Democratic parties already run by the Irish; his battle against the Caseys in Pennsylvania encapsulates this old, old feud. They thus participated in, and were influenced by, the developments within the Republican Party.

    At best, they have become more or less paleoconservative, which in turn brings them within the orbit of critiques, not least Catholic critiques, of capitalism. At worst, they have become Rick Santorum.

    Rather mirroring the battle for the Republican Party itself this year. Once and for all, is it the Party of God, or is it the Party of Mammon? The slow motion coronation of the candidate of big business in all its social liberalism and global military adventurism should settle that. To the surprise of nobody who has ever been paying attention.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Dr Oddie for an excellent piece about the NHS. The killer fact that it costs the American taxpayer more of its GDP to fund its basic public health programmes for the very poor and the old than we spend on the whole NHS service, giving “free at the point of need” care for everyone, should be more widely known. 

  • R Scott Maxwell

    Admittedly,  Americans project our situation on the UK, but it is also clear that those in the UK project their realities onto America.  A socialized system in America will be a disaster, but it is for purely American reasons.  Having experienced some very devastating medical experiences in the past 24 months, I can assure you that you would not go bankrupt.  I can also assure you that you would be baffled as to how costs are determined in the American system as well.

    For example,  one bill we had was for $130,000, which was “adjusted” to $29,000 of which, we were responsible for $1,200.  This is without insurance, I should add.  So how can something cost $130,000 only cost $1,200 or $29,000?  Or whatever?  I have no clue.  And that, in a nutshell, is why the US system has problems and why, if you superimpose a system like you NHS that it would eventually result in collapse.

  • Rob W.

    Postscript to my comment above: The exodus of British doctors from the NHS to go practice medicine in other countries speaks for itself.
    Also, when the main word or idea used in promoting the NHS is “free,” it must be asked, how long can a liberal immigration policy be sustained? We’re facing this kind of fiscal disaster, as we speak, in my state of California.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joel-Pinheiro-da-Fonseca/100001070571681 Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca

    I think the saner position, for Catholics, is to argue rationally about economics and political options without claiming for themselves the mantle of doctrinal orthodoxy. The popes have had their economic and political opinions too, and have disagreed among themselves. Leo XIII, Pius XI, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict CVI; they all had or have very particular outlooks on a host of problems; there isn’t one single “Catholic” position, thankfully.

    Even in the US, Catholics are significantly more “leftwing” than Protestants; most vote Democrat. It could one day change, however. I just hope relevant arguments such as whether there should be universal public health (or limited public health) are left to reason, and that Catholics on either side don’t lazily and cowardly hide behind the authority of the Church.  

  • Mark T.

    Was hoping to hear why Orthodox American Catholics should not also be politically conservative. When one party in America stands in open opposition to the two fundamental social teachings of the Church — the defense and protection of life and family — by explicitly stating in its party platform a support for abortion (and working daily for that goal), and actively working to redefine the family, where is an Orthodox American Catholic to go?

    On the subject of health care, the issue with nationalized, socialized health care is one of subsidiarity. Nothing changes the relationship between the citizen and the state the way that a government takeover of health care does. The doors for infinite governmental impositions are opened, including the imposition of mandated contraception and abortion “services” — something against Catholic teaching, if I’m not mistaken — on taxpayers. Perhaps Catholics in Britain are willing to pay for such things and have them normalized into the culture, I’ll stand as a philosophical holdout until far better, far more Catholic solutions are offered. 

  • Jay Burgherr

    Quite frankly Dr. Oddie, I too am quite pleased that you are a subject of the Crown and not a countryman of mine.  Such pompous statements as yours show your arrogance and delusions of grandeur.

    In the Gospel, Jesus commands us, individually, to heal the sick, feed and clothe the poor.  He does not however command or even elude to the fact that this should be a government responsibility.  Why?  Because he wants the giving to be from a charitable heart, not by fiat of a tax law.  There is redemptive value in giving to your church via your tithe and through other charitable giving.  I can tell you that I don’t terribly charitable on April 15th (US Tax Day).

    We are indeed supposed to do the things commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, but it is up to us to provide our charities in our own neighborhoods the monies necessary to fulfill these needs.   Government health care does not do an effective job of managing talent or money.  It uses a bludgeon to do the job of that which requires a scalpel. 

    Nearly half of all hospitals in the United States were built by the Catholic Church and funded via charitable giving during the 1700-1900′s.  During that time very little money ever came from the government coffers.  Yet they never turned away patients.  How can this be?  Because local charity have and will always do a more efficient job than any federalized system can. 

    The United States has over 15 Trillion dollar of current debt.  It has over 115 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities.  We are simply broke and need to cut spending.  Massively!  Obamacare will take over nearly 25% of our economy and use it for other nefarious things besides providing healthcare.  The US simply can not afford this.  This is money that my children and grandchildren are being asked to pay, on my behalf, even before they enter the workforce.  This is simply unconscionable.  
    Rick Santorum and all of the current Republican candidates for President vow to do everything they can to kill Obamacare.  I agree with this strategy. It is now up us Americans to do what we do best, take care of our fellow man via charitable giving and vigilance and direct over-site of the charitable agencies whom we deem, individually, worthy of our hard earned monies.

  • Scott Bradford

    I really appreciate your insight into the U.K.’s NHS system. The caricature of it we get here in the States is often quite incorrect.

    But, with respect, you similarly misrepresent the U.S. system. You say, “I have personal reasons to feel strongly about the NHS. It’s quite simple: due to complications deriving from the fact that I am a type two diabetic, I need an appointment with specialist podiatrists every two weeks, and I am on six different kinds of medication. These keep my condition under control but they would be beyond my means. In America I would by now be bankrupt, very ill or dead.”

    I know several Americans with similar maladies — including my grandmother. They are all well taken care of, either because they participate in Medicaid/Medicare (our limited national health care system which is available to the elderly and the poor) or because they are insured through their employers or through their own private care plans.

    The reality is that the American system, while certainly imperfect, doesn’t condemn anybody to death…nor, in fact, does it condemn anybody to bankruptcy except those who BY THEIR OWN CHOICE decide not to insure themselves. If you’re so poor that you can’t afford to purchase insurance, the Medicare/Medicaid system covers you.

    The element too-often left out of discussion of the American health care system is the element of choice. Yes, many people go bankrupt when hit with huge, unexpected medical costs…but their own choices, like the decision to purchase a BMW instead of medical insurance [as an example], is what got them there. I, on the other hand, choose to invest in health insurance for myself and my family, and am well protected against medical catastrophies. The level of service those of us with the good sense to insure ourselves get from our system is comperable to that you get in the NHS, perhaps even better by some measures. If we’re going to do a fair comparison, we need to exclude the people who voluntarily opt out of our system.

    Once again, I’m not saying our system is perfect — not by a long shot. But, like the NHS in the UK, it is not nearly as bad as the charicature version I keep hearing about from our friends across the pond. Personally, I don’t think it’s government’s job to protect me from myself. I’m an adult. I should have the right to choose whether to insure myself or risk bankrupting myself when I get sick or injured. If I want to risk my health and financial well-being by forgoing health insurance, that’s my business, not the government’s.

    I’m fine with an insurance mandate for children, who can’t choose for themselves, but adults have the right to made bad decisions (and face the consequences thereof).

    Thanks again for the article, and greetings from an American Catholic!

  • Guest

    I thought this article was supposed to be about Rick Santorum’s criticism of the NHS. However it quickly devolved into a compare and contrast about US and British healtcare systems. 

    My father is also a Type 2 diabetic. He’s been on dialysis for several years, recently had his leg amputated is suffering from Stage 4 cancer. He also sees a podiatrist every few weeks as well as an endocrinologist regularly. He does not see the oncologist too much as his cancer has spread and there is not much left for them to do. That didn’t prevent him from receiving several weeks of daily radiation treatment, as pallative care, to reduce a grossly sized tumor that was causing considerable pain. It did nothing to reduce the spread of his cancer which will probably take his life in a month or two. He is not in debt, and does not have private health insurance, simply Medicare. To my knowledge he has never been denied treatment or any medical care.

    There are considerable problems with the delivery of healthcare in the U.S and as you correctly stated they will not be resolved by Obamacare. You however are guilty of the same mistake for which you accuse Rick Santorum, as are many American’s, which is that you cannot compare different models of healthcare delivery outside of your own country. 

  • David Lindsay

    What has the Republican Party ever actually done for pro-life? Who was the last GOP Presidential nominee to have been even vaguely pro-life in practice? Or, apart from Dubya, even in principle? It is all a con, a way of tricking and bullying blue-collar Catholics and white Evangelicals, staunch Democrats well into living memory, into voting against their own economic interest, and in recent years for their sons to be harvested, along with those of the black Evangelicals, in pointless wars.

    Obama, however pro-abortion he might be in principle, has signed healthcare into law after having promised not to do so if there were any provision for federally funded abortion, which there is not; would that there were a public option or a single-payer system alongside that ban, so as to make abortion practically impossible, but one thing at a time. He has also kicked the Freedom of Choice Act into the long grass, and instead endorsed the Pregnant Women Support Act of his ally, Bob Casey, the erstwhile nemesis of Rick Santorum.

    Together, ObamaCare and the PWSA will drastically reduce abortion. Though not as much as would have done the combination of the PWSA and the discarded House Healthcare Bill, with both its public option and its even more strongly pro-life Stupak Amendment, proposed by another Obama supporter and passed by the Democrat-controlled House. For which the electorate will be crying out after a few years of massively subsidising the insurance companies under the present arrangements.

    What have the Republicans ever actually done that so much as remotely matches any of that?

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Schulman Sam Schulman

    It would be good to see what percentage of the NHS budget goes for admin etc. – which I know is huge – compared to the US, which is no doubt too high but much lower, for structural/political reasons.  Useful to compare actual direct cost of healthcare treatment provided in 2 countries as pctg of GDP.  I doubt it’s equal.

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Schulman Sam Schulman

    You certainly can compare the outcomes of patients of the same age with treatable common problems, like breast cancer, prostate cancer and heart attacks.  The UK outcomes are not pretty, compared not only with the glorious USA, but also with public/private systems on the continent.
    Obviously what Santorum says about the NHS is going to be by comparison with US.  Less obvious is that President Obama tried for a year to appoint a man to run Obamacare who was a more uncritical fan of the NHS than Mr. Oddie or anyone on these comments.  So it matters to all.

  • Ian

    This is spot-on.

  • Mark T.

    A quick reply before I pick up my daughter from school.

    You won’t hear me defending the Republican Party, only conservative principles that comport with Catholic teaching. But I’m afraid you haven’t and won’t convince me that the Democratic Party (and especially Obama) is pro-life or pro-family, or in any way pro-Catholic.

    Answering your questions: (1) Republican presidents should be nominating pro-life Supreme Court justices. (2/3) Thad McCotter (a short-lived GOP candidate, and my choice) is very pro-life in practice and in principle. While he will not be the nominee, I don’t think I can go to the Democrats and even be given a pro-life option in a nominee. Abortion “rights”, after all, is part of the party platform. I agree that much of politics is a con.

    The USCCB seems to disagree with Obamacare not because it is anti-subsidiarity (which it surely is), but, oddly enough, only because it certainly does allow for funding of abortion, however well-cloaked it is in the bill. Catholic bloggers have been exposing these realities and the pro-abortion realities of this administration (and by extension the Democratic Party) for months.

    The health insurance industry must be fixed. Obviously, it would be idiotic to defend the pre-Obamacare status quo in health insurance. Solutions from Republicans?  Paul Ryan has put forward a universal plan that is a huge improvement, without a federal takeover, that is much more in line with Catholic sensibilities.  

  • Gary, Republic of Texas

    The American medical system is not as bleak as you believe.  I was self employed most of my working life and I bought medical insurance from the free market. It was not cheap, but it was much less than just one day in the hospital.
    Most Americans are spenders.., they choose to spend money on beer, cigarettes,tattoos,and expensive cell phone plans, rather than buying medical insurance, and the attitude is, I’ll just declare bankruptcy if I cannot pay.
    I too am a type 2 diabetic, my meds cost about $5.00 per month., just have to shop around. I go to the doctor 4 times per year, and my co pay is $10. per visit.  Total cost per year is $100. Gasoline sells for $3.15 per gallon, not $8.00+ you Brits pay., mostly tax., right.? Your fuel cost would bankrupt me.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of Santorum’s fellow-countrymen have lurid fantasies of exactly the same kind – I hope he doesn’t share their delusion that only the US has “democracy”, due process, civil rights, the rule of law, and (more or less) universal suffrage. Everyone knows that God is a Yank, & presumably a WASP. (Sorry, Alabama/Georgia/Southerners.) Here’s hoping he’s not elected.

    As Obelix the Gaul might have said, “These “Americans” are crazy”.

    What missals ought to have is prayers for those in authority – the BCP does. So do those Orthodox liturgies that JP2 thought so utterly wonderful. The Roman Liturgy used to – until that wonderful tsunami the “New Pentecost” was unleashed on the Church. The New Testament says that such prayers should be offered by Christians. If people don’t pray for those in authority, it’s pointless to complain of how ghastly those in government are. It could be of course that such prayer is seen to be pointless because prayer is seen as pointless/problematic by those who decide what goes in the Missal.

  • Anonymous

    “The very existence of NHS  does not reflect these important principles of Catholic social teaching.”

    Which is more important:

    Conformity to impersonal doctrines, regardless of the all-too-real misery they may bring;

    or:

    Looking after really-existing people who have all-too-real infirmities and maladies ? 

    The opponents of Jesus thought Sabbath-keeping (which, like Catholic dogma, was alleged to have a Divine sanction) took priority over healing the sick on the Sabbath. Jesus begged to differ. As people from the US say, “Go figure”.

    The Pope can do as he likes in his own Vatican City state, but he can’t make prudential judgements for any other state. He is not King of the World (not yet, anyway). There is no vacancy at the top in this country. So whether we have an NHS in the UK is none of the Vatican’s business. If we had depended on the Vatican for our politics, 19th-century Britain would have been as backward & anti-democratic as Spain or Naples or other priest-ridden states.

  • Anonymous

    Santorum is a nut job who was thrown out of office in 2006, was rightfully ignored this entire election, and then was used by the media to ensure that Romney and not a serious candidate would win the Iowa caucuses.  They are attempting to do the same thing with Huntsman in New Hampshire.

  • Margaridamaria2011

    Britain, Europe, and the US are committing cultural suicide with their immigration policies. These polices are to prop up the retirement of elderly workers who need new workers to pay for their social security. The root of the problem is a badly planned work cycle; people aged 25-65 work 40 – 50 plus  hours a week while retirees do nothing and get bored at home until they die.

    Instead, let the young work 30 hours a week and those 65 and up work 15 hours a week. Then the elderly (with health exceptions allowed) can still contribute and stay active which is better for their health and the young can actually have a life outside of work. Then, no more welfare state or excessive immigration needed.

  • Charles Ferry

    If you’ve read Santorum’s criticisms in context, his concerns with NHS and similar programs is that they inevitably sacrifice the neglected of society to maintain or expand the standards and privileges of the politically connected. You see this quite often in American social support programs. The middle class votes its way into eligibility. The politicians undermine the programs’ effectiveness by manipulate regulations for advocacy organizations and vendors. The tyranny of the majority (or plurality or politically connected) is a growing threat the more the once republic strays from its limited role as outlined in the Constitution.

  • DK

    As an American who lived in the U.K. for about five years and have first hand experiences with the NHS, I can say without a doubt the NHS is a mess.  We arrived in England in Jan. of 1999 during a flu epidemic.  We heard on the news there were only three beds left.  We thought they meant the local hospital. Only to find out, to our horror, that they were talking about the whole country!  People were dying  in ambulances going from hospital to hospital.   There were doctor and nurses shortages and they were bringing nurses from foreign countries the whole time we lived there.  Our local surgery had two choices to see a doctor.   One who saw people on appointments but that usually took several days to get in, or one who worked on first come first serve basis and you just brought your sick self or child and sat with all the other sick people for however long it took to make your way to the front of the line. My dear friend still living in England has been waiting 6 months for a simple cortisone shot for severe back pain.  My father got one in his knee, here in the States, on his very first visit to the doctor. We also see a lot Canadians fleeing their NHS to come to American for medical care.  Yes, there are things we can improve in our current system, but God save us from Obamacare and any sort of NHS. 

  • E63l63r

    I’m pleased you like your system but we don’t want it here. We don’t want the government ( i.e. Kathleen Sebelious and her pro- abort, pro- contraceptive, anti-Catholic, pro-death wild eyed liberals) making decisions about our health care. And NHS may not have bank rupted Britian but Obama Care will bankrupt America, or I should say, it will put us deeper into bankruptcy than we already are. By the way, we all know Geroge H Bush was no concervative and while Obama is by far the worst President America has ever had, George Bush is right behind him. I’m a conservative.

  • Dgradeworkunit

    As an apparently lower-class American, healthcare is a continual worry.  Even though I am gainfully employed, my job’s insurance benefits are prohibitively expensive for family coverage.  This year I am on the employer’s plan and purchase my own insurance independently for the other three family members.  This is by far the least expensive option. That I can purchase my own insurance for less money than a huge group plan can ought to be economically impossible.  Luckily (or not) economic laws are not laws – they’re willed options.
    Mr. Oddie is correct about the peculiar American link between orthodox Catholicism and neo-con economic ideology.  Why they so often go hand in hand is a complete mystery to me.  It’s not as if Catholics here don’t point that out, but the objections fall on deaf ears.  Many American’s simply can’t imagine any other reality except through the lens of “conservative” and “liberal”.

  • Alexander S. Anderson.

    I’m always surprised at how much old-style Anti-Catholicism still survives in the UK.  Well, good-going, old chap. I’m sure it was the dastardly influence of the Pope that created the tyrannies of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, King James I and Charles I with their theories of Divine Right, or Oliver Cromwell’s dictatorship. Oh wait, they all hated the Pope! It seems your country is pretty good at creating tyranny without being priest-ridden (and killing them). But I’m sure the Pope is the cause of all tyranny and backwardness. (Not to mention how your forward-thinking liberal democracy treated the Irish… and is attempting to treat the Muslims in your borders)

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    Well put….Justice according to Catholic principles involves (at the very least) not killing those you don’t like and treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves.

    In fact, I’ve read it from a reputable source that we’re supposed to “love our enemies.”….Especially when the enmity is imaginary.

  • James H

    While we’re talking about deranged comments…

    What does the Pope have to do with this article?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post.
    It was really helpful to solve my confusion.

    Occupational Medicine

  • Yddid

    Interesting that you should mention hospital beds, because the US has the lowest number of beds per capita out of all countries in the G8…

  • Yddid

    The UK has worse outcomes than the US for cancer, but better outcomes for cardiovascular disease. The UK also has higher life expectancy.

  • Rhys Reed

    I’ve had conversations with Americans who were utterly shocked that we’re not paying 70% tax to cover the cost of the NHS and other services we get. With one couple my wife and I were talking to a couple of nights ago, we worked out that our Income Tax and National Insurance and Council Tax was approximately equal to what they in pay State Taxes and Federal Taxes, as a percentage of income. As they were both self employed they then had to pay for health insurance on top of this. At the end of the conversation we all concluded that the American electorate are completely, and probably deliberately, misled about what happens in the rest of the world. 

  • Charles Ferry

    UK also coerces their most fragile to death to game life expectancy statistics.

  • Yddid

    Untrue. Not to mention nonsensical.

  • Rob W

    On the contrary, literate Americans are among the best informed about what happens in the rest of the world. They don’t primarily depend on a single, left-wing source of news, like the BBC, as do the great majority of British people. If there was a little more diversity of news reporting and analysis in the U.K., the British wouldn’t be so willing to go along with a socialist system, which is bound to collapse in time. We’re having this very debate in the United States right now, as we move toward the next presidential election. Do we want to be like socialist Europe, or do we want to be liberty-loving people who don’t willingly hand over their wealth, the care of their health, and indeed their whole lives to the state. Christ made the Church *His bride*, not the bride of Caesar.

    Yes, we must care for the least among us. Yes, we must live with a spirit of solidarity. But when did the British lose their sense of what it means to be free-born people?

  • calvin hazelwood

    William Oddie is
    probably right about some things in this article…but he’s wrong about
    others.

    Often when people talk
    about other countries’ “systems” they get things wrong, and I imagine that Rick
    Santorum gets many things wrong about the NHS. That’s too bad. But Oddie makes
    the same errors when he writes about the American healthcare “system.” For
    example:

    I have personal
    reasons to feel strongly about the NHS. It’s quite simple: due to complications
    deriving from the fact that I am a type two diabetic, I need an appointment with
    specialist podiatrists every two weeks, and I am on six different kinds of
    medication. These keep my condition under control but they would be beyond my
    means. In America I would by now be bankrupt, very ill or dead. Sorry Mr
    Santorum: you’re just wrong about the NHS. Your system is more expensive than
    ours and it just doesn’t work for a large proportion of the US
    population.

    Sorry, Mr. Oddie,
    you’re just wrong about America. It is absurd to say that “keeping your
    condition under control in America would be beyond your means…and that you would
    be bankrupt or dead” here. We real people in America know lots of people much
    poorer than you, and who have more serious complications-due-to-diabetes than
    you do, and we know that they are neither bankrupt, “very ill” (in the sense
    that you mean), or dead. We have something over here called insurance. And it
    works, even for the poor.

    Yes; our
    individual-responsibility insurance system is “broken” and it’s way too
    expensive. (But note that the too-expensiveness is borne not so much by the
    poor, who have ways of getting
    free access to healthcare by “circumventing” the “system,” but by middle-class
    workers and taxpayers who pay much too much for insurance in order to subsidize
    the poor/uninsured and to cover the many illogicalities in the broken system.)
    Oddie is certainly right that Obamacare would not “fix” any of this, and would,
    in fact, makes things much worse. But with his totally ignorant comment about
    “bankruptcy and death” he demonstrates that he knows even less about the real
    problems of the American healthcare system than Santorum knows about the
    NHS.

  • amfortas

    According to Rick Santorum evolution is a ‘liberal’ belief. Why are Americans so often blind and ignorant? One might expect more from a ‘turbo-charged’ Catholic. And why does the British press give Conrad Black the time of day?

  • Will Baldwin

    I concluded something similar in the mid-`80s after several very long conversations with supposedly well-educated (post-doctoral plant biochemists) young Californians from middle-class backgrounds, who appeared to know little about what happened outside the CA state boundaries, let alone outside The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave: there was a lot of sub-Reaganite “Murrica must be The World’s Policeman” nonsense; all Yoorpeen gubbmints were socialist (what, Helmut Kohl? Thatcher? Did they not know how recently Portugal and Greece had got shot of military dictatorship?); et-bleedin`-cetera.

    This was especially depressing as they came from a similar socio-economic and educational background to me and most of my friends and acquaintances at the time, and we all had a bit more of an idea…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LYGUGSPODDFQALP7DZO5VECZDI Therese Z

    The author uses the study inaccurately. The study reports bankruptcy as a result not only of medical costs, but of loss of income due to illness – that is, you no work you no get paid, you go broke. That has NOTHING to do with health insurance.

  • stephen mccall

    As an ex-pat myself,i congratulate you on a terrific piece of journalism.

  • Rob W

    A needed dose of reality:  The U.K. has a ₤ 1 trillion debt and climbing. That breaks down to ₤ 34,569 for every working person in the U.K. National debt is over 50% of GDP. How long can this be sustained?

    http://www.debtbombshell.com/ 
    http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_national_debt 

  • Anthony Radice

    The NHS has killed seven million babies in the last forty-odd years. This is what you get when you surrender to the state what should be done by the community. We should not fall into the trap of believing the socialist lie that there is no alternative to state provision. State provision robs families and communities of the grace we receive when we must care for each other and suffer together, instead of surrendering our loved ones to the government-certified experts, many of whom are quite happy to let them die when they become too much of a ‘burden’ on the system. No Catholic should support the pro-death culture of the socialist state which has dominated British culture and politics for so long.

  • Patricia K.

    Thank you!  I have read every inch of the original study, and as you say, not just medical BILLS but loss of income (due to the illness or a family member quitting work to caretake) , second mortages on homes to make up for the loss of INCOME, and non-medical expenses (travel to far flung hospitals, hotel rooms for family members) are included as the “cause” of all these bankruptcies.

    What is also omitted when this study is quoted is that the vast majority of these people had large amounts of consumer debt BEFORE THE ILLNESS!  In other words, they were on the ledge and the illness and loss of income pushed them over.

    Finally, disability insurance to replace lost working wages is available privately and through many employers.  But, many choose the McMansion and the two new cars instead…..and when they file , they say the reason is “medical”.  Sounds better than “we were living large and without disability insurance and we lost the gamble.”

  • Anonymous

    Nothing whatever, except incidentally, as a result of mention of subsidiarity by the preding poster. Derangement comments apart, what business has the Pope, or any foreigner, to make prudential judgements that imply the NHS (which is relevant to this thread) is somehow “iffy” in principle ? That is is the extent of his relevance to the article.

  • Anonymous

    mmm I really fail to see how wanting to destroy the entire social safety-net is very Catholic. This guy is just a shill for big-business.

    What kind of Catholic is ‘not familiar’ with the preferential option of the poor – critical to papal social-teaching! Even if he disagrees with it, as the someone who is using his Christianity to win support – this is just NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Look here and watch him squirm like an ant under a magnifying glass:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8sxwSYS6zE

  • Anonymous

    rob let me ask – are you american?

  • Anonymous

    oh yeah, and I suggest you read Mathew 25 – parable of the sheep and the goats.

  • Anonymous

    Most of that debt is from 2 wars, and from defense spending. Most of that debt was also created by Republican Presidents.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the legacy of what the Conservatives did to the NHS. Thankfully with massive Labour investment over the last 13 years it is much better up to scratch.

    If you saw it now I think you would be thinking differently.

    Enjoy spending double what we do on your health-care by the way! And don’t let the 50 million uninsured at all worry your mind or make you guilty. Because even the children of laid off workers bear some ‘personal responsibility’ in paying for their health-care.