Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Learning From The Experience of Others

Douglas Adams described it as a uniquely human ability, and one in which humans were uniquely disinclined to engage.

In a piece yesterday, I posted a followup link to a Guardian article noting the British reaction to incendiary attacks from US opponents of health care reform. There's another article in The Guardian today discussing how both countries are missing the opportunity to learn from each other.
Ask Americans why they're sceptical about healthcare reform and they'll say that don't want to end up like Britain: they don't want long waits or rationing. Americans' fears about the NHS were stoked by a series of television ads highlighting heart-wrenching accounts of sub-standard care in the NHS. While some of the content in the ads touch on cancer care, which is arguably the achilles heel of the NHS, there is nothing in what President Obama is proposing that would lead to these types of challenges in the US and the ads mask the positive aspects of the NHS.

Likewise, ask the British why they're sceptical about efforts to increase patient choice and competition and rely more heavily on private healthcare providers and they'll say that they don't want to end up like the US: they don't want people denied care because they can't pay, and they've heard the US doesn't perform well relative to what it spends. Indeed, an entire issue of the British Medical Association's BMA News was spent raging against market forces in healthcare and pleading not to turn the NHS into an American-style system.
Unfortunately, as long as one major political party believes that ignorance, ideological and religious faith, and temper tantrums form the basis of productive political discourse, I don't think the US at large is going to be doing any learning for the foreseeable future.

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