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As Obama pushes new regulations, UK eyes privatizing its health care

February 17, 2012

12:15 AM  02/17/2012

Filmmaker Michael Moore glorified the United Kingdom’s National Health  Service in his 2007 documentary ”Sicko,” making a cult film  argument that socialized medicine works. But Prime Minister David  Cameron, the Tory MP who heads a coalition government in England, is  apparently not a Moore fan: He is working to partially privatize the NHS,  beginning a massive outsourcing of medical services to private health care  providers throughout the U.K.

Britain’s media, in particular the Washington Post–Huffington Post  hybrid The Guardian, is publishing near-panic-attacks alerts daily about  the conservative plan, which comes as the British government scales back on entitlement spending, hoping to avoid a Greek-style  financial meltdown.

But in the United States, left-wing enthusiasts of socialized medicine don’t  seem bothered at the loss of a role model. Many won’t even acknowledge it.

“I handle media and public relations for the Catholic Health Association,” Fred Caesar told The Daily Caller. “We will pass on commenting.” Caesar is  special assistant to the president of the CHA, a vocal advocate of President  Obama’s health care overhaul.

Major U.S. media are also ignoring the story. As Cameron’s own health reform bill gathers momentum and heads for a vote in  Parliament, online searches show no coverage at all of Britain’s move  in The Washington Post or The New York Times.

‘Taken out and shot’

Contrast this with U.K. media, which is pressuring Cameron to drop his plans.  Major medical societies — including the Royal College of General Practitioners — and the rest of Britain’s medical establishment is shouting for Cameron to cease  and desist.

The British public has a fear of privatization founded on the idea that  doctors “might become dependent on advice from powerful private health  companies,” and that the free-market competition laws could replace “public  service principles” as the NHS’s central operating principle, The  Guardian reported this week. (RELATED:  Full coverage of the US Affordable Care Act)

Even the Times of London, a liberal broadsheet that is still  normally restrained in its commentary, opined that Cameron’s health secretary  Andrew Lansley should be “taken out and shot” for moving the bill through the  House of Commons.

Sally Pipes, an American health policy expert who leads the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, told TheDC that  President Barack  Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry  Reid, and House Minority Leader Nancy  Pelosi will likely ignore any changes in U.K. health policy. Their  allies in the U.S. media and public policy establishment, she said, would follow  suit.

“They are ideologues,” Pipes said. “They don’t care whether the system really  works or not. They have an ideological goal in mind.”

Pipes notes that the system of socialized medicine in the U.K., and a  similar one in Canada, is viable only for routine visits to the doctor, but not  for chronic illnesses like cancer or kidney disease. A few years ago in Canada,  she said, her own mother could not get a simple colonoscopy scheduled for  several months, despite searing abdominal pain.

When Pipes’ mother started bleeding, she was rushed to the emergency  room and finally given the colonoscopy — which indicated that she had colorectal  cancer. It was too late for treatment at that point, though, and she died  shortly thereafter.

“They keep down costs by rationing medicine and medical services,” Pipes  explained.

Joseph A. Morris, a former Reagan White House lawyer who now serves  on the board of the American Conservative Union, told TheDC that socialized  medicine has turned out to be a threat to Britons’ health, and to their economy  as well.

“Europe’s message to the world is no longer that the socialist dream of the  cradle-to-grave welfare state is an easy achievement,” Morris  said. “Rather, it is the shouted warning that it is a fool’s paradise. The  bills are coming due and the only real alternatives — serious financial reform  of government or national bankruptcy — are not pleasant.”

Morris added that the British government, “unlike the Obama administration,  is hearing the warnings, identifying its greatest vulnerabilities, and trying to  race ahead of the deluge.”

Obama’s solution for the health care industry, the controversial Affordable  Care Act, has already been ruled unconstitutional in federal courts and is  headed for a Supreme Court showdown this spring. Given the timing, it has been a  consistent presidential campaign issue.

Last week former Sen. Rick  Santorum, who was among the earliest advocates of private health savings  accounts when he served in Congress, aimed a health-care jab at his main GOP  rival, former Gov. Mitt  Romney.

“Gov. Romney is dead wrong on the issue of the day and he should not be the  nominee of the party,” Santorum said in a campaign stop in Minnesota near the Mayo Clinic.  Repealing the Obama health care plan is “central to our country,” Santorum told  a cheering crowd, and “central to this race — specifically why Gov. Romney is  absolutely incapable of making the case against Obamacare successfully.”

As the White House’s model for health reform hits roadblock after roadblock,  a Gallup poll released Wednesday shows that small business owners are losing  confidence in Obama’s plan. Forty-eight percent point to potential health  care costs and another 46 percent point to government regulations as reasons to  abandon the president’s agenda.

Even if Britain’s NHS and other state-run health systems were replaced with  something more capitalistic, other socialist models can be found on any world  map for future U.S. policy experiments.

“Cuba has recently allowed some private elements into their health care  system,” said Pipes. “But North Korea is still completely state run.”

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