Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

Winston Churchill was a Bolchevik

March 25, 2010

Or at least that’s what our American “Conservatives” would say of him. In effect, Salon’s Joe Conason reminds us of the important role Winston Churchill played in setting up the British National Health System (NHS):

Perhaps it is a forlorn hope that facts and history can make any impression on the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Chuck Grassley, or Bill Kristol, but let’s try anyway — because it is worth understanding that despite the low quality of our own so-called conservatives, there was once another kind.

Churchill was renowned as a politician who put country and civilization above party. The government he led during World War II was a broad coalition of the British parties, from his own Conservatives to the democratic socialists of Labor. Midway through the war, Churchill’s government asked Sir William Beveridge, a Liberal Party social reformer and economist to study systems of social insurance that could reduce poverty, disease, unemployment and illiteracy in Britain.

In 1942, Beveridge issued an far-reaching report that proposed a national health service to provide medical care to every man, woman and child, regardless of means — much as the coalition government had done during the medical emergency brought on by the German bombings of their cities, hospitals and clinics.

Although Churchill endorsed the idea of a national health system, his party lost the first post-war general election in 1945, partly because British voters didn’t trust the Tories to implement the Beveridge report. Instead a Labor government established universal care under the NHS in 1948.

Only three years later, the Tories returned to power with Churchill restored as prime minister. At that point, the NHS could still have been killed — and many members of the Tory party, not to mention the British Medical Association, were eager to do so.

But Churchill asked Claude Guillebaud, a Cambridge economist, to head a committee to study the performance and efficiency of the NHS. The Gillebaud committee found that the NHS was highly effective – and needed additional funding to insure that effectiveness would continue. There was no more talk of dismantling the very popular service, and instead the Tories under Churchill and his immediate successors allocated more money to build additional clinics and hospitals. Even Margaret Thatcher, the most ideological Tory prime minister of modern times, promised voters that “the NHS is safe in our hands.”


Health Care: No Need to Rush

November 23, 2009

David Corn
points out why Obama and the Dems in Congress are right not to push through any legislation just to make a deadline:

Deadlines? Who needs stinkin’ deadlines? For months, I’ve been critical of aspects of the Obama White House approach to health care reform. I thought it was a mistake for President Obama, when his approval rating was near 60 percent, to hand off his top-priority domestic initiative to Congress, an outfit with approval ratings near 30 percent. I also thought that the president erred early on by not defining the legislation strongly as a pro-consumer measure (no more denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions and so on), thus rendering it easier for the bill to be defined by the subsequent tussles over the public option and abortion. But as with Obama’s ongoing Afghanistan review, this health care stuff is difficult — especially when moneyed interests, such as the insurance companies, have powerful disincentives to obstruct — and the White House ought not be timed as it navigates this obstacle course.

The Economist concurs: Proceed with caution.

Health Care Options For Dummies

October 15, 2009


A Woman’s Right

October 15, 2009

The Economist reports that restrictive abortion laws do not prevent abortion and lead to higher rates of unsafe procedures.


If this alone doesn’t convince you abortion should be legal. and hence safe, because of moral principals, Andrew Sullivan over at The Atlantic compiled a remarkable series of testimonies under the title It’s So Personal.

A Free-Market Case for the Public Option

October 13, 2009

Max Fisher over at The Atlantic makes a good argument for the so-called “Public Option*:

Something like televisions exist in a free market because consumers, if they don’t like any of the new TVs on the market, can simply keep their old one. If they really don’t like the market, they can even forgo owning one altogether; it will make you unpopular on game day, but it won’t risk your life. Insurance is different. Anyone with a sense of basic self-preservation has no choice but to buy health insurance every single month. You cannot opt out, there are few options to choose from, and it’s difficult to know how to price your future risk of injury. So health insurance companies have distorted incentives to innovate or provide a more cost-effective product.

A public option would, crazy as it might sound, make health insurance a free market.


If there exists a government-run plan, which by all accounts would be basic and geared towards affordability, consumers will have the ability to opt out of the private insurance market. Private providers would finally have real incentives to provide a better product and innovate by building an insurance plan stronger than public insurance. Fears that a public option might decree certain treatments “not cost-effective,” which are not as outlandish as some liberals think, should delight free-market conservatives because it would be an opportunity for private insurers to step in. Worried you might develop a condition requiring $60,000 medication that no public option would ever include? Buy a blinged-out private plan that, for an increased premium, will.

Makes sense to me. and I am glad to read a piece in the MSM which finally defends what was always obvious to me.

Leave The Health Insurance System Alone!

September 29, 2009

O’Reilly Defends Public Option Health Insurance

September 23, 2009

Bill O’Reilly proves he is more attuned to the actual needs and fears of some working Americans than the more ideological tools at Fox.

O’REILLY: The public option now is done. We discussed this, it’s not going to happen. But you say that this little marketplace that they’re going to set up, whereby the federal government would subsidize insurance for some Americans, that is, in your opinion, a public option?

OWCHARENKO: Well, it has massive new federal regulation. So you don’t necessarily need a public option if the federal government is going to control and regulate the type of health insurance that Americans can buy.

O’REILLY: But you know, I want that, Ms. Owcharenko. I want that. I want, not for personally for me, but for working Americans, to have a option, that if they don’t like their health insurance, if it’s too expensive, they can’t afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks.

Protect Insurance Companies PSA: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm Speak Out Against The Public Option

September 23, 2009

Must see video. Stars speak out against Obama’s attack on health care insurers here.

Swiss Universal Health Care Coverage As Model For The US?

September 8, 2009

This page from Frontline gives a brief discussions of how five other countries — UK, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland — cover their populations and links to much more detailed discussions of how each country does it with experts on how that particular country’s system works.

As others have noted, the Switzerland model seems closest to what health care reformers in the US are now trying to create. Another interesting point is that the Swiss system was only put into effect in 1994, which is significant for a few reasons.

There are cultural and political-economic roots behind the fact that the US is the only advanced industrial country without a national health care system of some sort which guarantees health care coverage for all. But one point that may get too little attention is that almost all the other countries put their systems into effect during the heyday of social democratic reforms in the first half of the 20th century. Fairly few countries have done this recently. It’s a very good question, with a lot of complex answers, as to why the US didn’t do it then. But what probably gets too little attention is that medical care itself is radically different than it was then. And as an industry — with vastly powerful insurance and pharmaceutical industries — it all but didn’t exist.

What this means is that the kinds of moneyed interests which now oppose reform simply did not exist in anything like the same form. And that is a very important difference. Yet Switzerland managed to pull off significant reform in an era with a big medico-industrial complex.

The Abortion Smokescreen

September 7, 2009


Gloria Feldt has a short but effective summary in The Daily Beast of the misinformation about health care reform and abortion, peddled around by the mobs who shouted down many town hall meetings during the past month:

Contrary to those apocalyptic headlines, the Washington-based Mellman Group’s national poll released in July confirms voters overwhelmingly (71% yes, 21% no) support requiring coverage of reproductive-health services for women. If reform eliminated current insurance coverage of birth control or abortion, nearly two-thirds would oppose the plan. Even when presented with opposition arguments, two-thirds still supported requiring coverage of abortions, agreeing that health care, not politics, should drive coverage decisions. Americans tend to be fair-minded, after all.