Americans brand NHS 'evil'

The NHS: composed of 'death panels'?
The NHS: composed of 'death panels'?

By Ian Dunt

The NHS has been branded "evil" and "Orwellian" by Republican politicians trying to stop Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.

In a series of high production value TV adverts, senior Republicans highlighted scare stories from the NHS, angering British officials and healthcare staff.

The $1.2 million advertising campaign, paid for by a right wing group called Club for Growth, begins with images of the union flag and Big Ben while a voice says the figure $22,750.

It continues: "In England, government health officials have decided that's how much six months of life is worth. If a medical treatment costs more, you're out of luck."

The figure is derived from a ratio of £30,000 a year used by Nice in assessing the value for money provided by drugs. It is a process opponents of President Obama's reforms equate to 'death panels'.

The adverts come despite the fact the UK has a higher life expectancy than the US, even though it spends less per head on healthcare.

The World Health Organisation ranks Britain 18th in the world for healthcare, while the US is in 37th place.

Last week, Republican chair of the Senate finance committee Chuck Grassley said fellow senator Ted Kennedy would not be given treatment for his brain tumour in the UK because he was too old.

"I don't know for sure, but I've heard several senators say that Ted Kennedy with a brain tumour, being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old, if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease, because end of life - when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems," he said.

A spokeswoman from the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was horrified by the current US system.

"Doctors and the public here are appalled that there are so many people on the US who don't have proper access to healthcare. It's something we would find very, very shocking," she said.

President Obama's reforms would not create a body on anything like the size of the NHS, but it would bring 40 million Americans without private health insurance into the fold, at the cost of $1 trillion.

The debate over the reforms is battering his approval ratings and costing him valuable political capital in an effort to secure cross-party support.


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