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Via nidonocu, on Twitter, I've become aware of a "We Love the NHS" campaign slowly making its way through UK users of social networking sites. It's intended to correct the misapprehensions/misinformation/flat-out lies being spread about the National Healthcare System used in England, suggesting that referring to it as a disaster that could happen if the USA adopts socialized healthcare is unfair to a system that fundamentally works. I obviously have no personal experience with the NHS, so I can't state either way- which, of course, is the entire point of the campaign: to point out the sweeping majority of "satisfied customers" who usually remain quiet, and suggesting the failure rate of their healthcare system is no worse than our private insurance- which is only good for people able to pay the irrationally steep cost of entry, while their less expensive system covers everybody.
(My personal opinion? The health care system in the USA is fundamentally broken. I am not convinced, however, that this proposal is the correct solution. If employers were not required to offer health plans, and the tax breaks for providing them went away, buying health insurance would actually go back to the open market and become subject to actual market forces. This doesn't address the high cost of malpractice insurance or medication, but a ban on advertising prescription medication would help. Advertising costs more than R&D for drug companies, but it's a race for the bottom: stopping advertising costs market share. Banning it places everybody on a level playing field. But we do need a government solution for health care for the poor, and what we have now isn't good enough. However, introducing government into a market intrinsically distorts it, as well as providing incentive to not work. The only way to fix that incentive problem is to offer the program to everybody, regardless of income- and we're back to socialized medicine, which is starting to look like the only stable solution.)
This seems reasonable. Over on one side of the lake, we've got a bunch of people freaking out about "oh god, Socialism" and spreading bizarre lies involving, among other highlights, mandatory euthanasia. On the other side, we have a bunch of people who are thoroughly confused about where the hell we're getting these bizarre ideas and would rather clear things up. They like their system, and would rather we stop having people die unnecessarily with the most pointlessly expensive health-care system in the world, so they'd rather we have more accurate information about their system when we contemplate our own. Reasonable, right?
Do not forget how pointlessly contrary Americans are.
Back in the 2004 elections, there was at least one British newspaper running a letter-writing campaign to encourage readers to advocate for John Kerry. Unfortunately, five years is an eternity on the Internet, and for the life of me I can't find the news articles about this now; can someone help me find the links? What happened, of course, was massive backlash. The campaign was met by pure anger by the USA recipients, with many self-declared undecideds switching to Bush supporters out of anger at what they perceived as unreasonable international interference in American politics. I did not recall any particular positive reactions to this campaign.
What I'm worried about is the exact same result for this campaign: backlash, but this time, mainstream backlash. Fox News will definitely spin it as "international pressure to adopt Socialist policies", but how will the less biased sources take it? How will the public take it? And who are you trying to prove anything to? Public health policy is an extremely polarized issue. I'm not sure how many of the people against it care about actual facts in any way. This attempt to introduce real, meaningful information seems entirely reasonable, but I'm worried it might well backfire.
The solution, as I see it, is to go through domestic channels. Provide the information, make it clear and citable, but push it to USA-based advocacy groups instead of international campaigns. It won't be as visible, and probably not really visible "enough"- but with the pressure for correction being perceived as domestic rather than international, it should avoid a backfire, which I honestly believe is the most likely result of this campaign.