By Steven Cotterill
Letters, The Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Chronicle, Feb. 18, 2011
So many myths are found within the letter from Mr. Schmidt that appeared in The Shepherdstown Chronicle on 02/04/11 that it is very hard to know exactly where to begin.
Given however that I have intimate knowledge of the British system of healthcare (I lived in England until the age of 18, since coming to America in 1983 have travelled back numerous times, and have many family members over there still), I will start with Mr. Schmidt’s contention that the failed British healthcare system is in the process of being dismantled.
Not only is this a complete fallacy, but the British, quite rightly, remain as proud of their system of healthcare delivery as many Americans are of representative democracy or jazz. The larger fallacy in Mr. Schmidt’s letter regarding England is that some type of nationalized healthcare system results in complete socialized medicine, which in turn leads to socialism itself. The last time I checked England presently has a coalition government consisting mainly of members of the conservative party, with some liberals added to complete the numbers needed for holding office. Even the very conservative Margaret Thatcher, in her time in office in the 1980s, only tinkered with the efficiency of the national healthcare system, and never seriously considered abandoning it altogether.
A more centralized healthcare system, which the healthcare reform act of last year didn’t even come close to approaching, no more represents the beginnings of socialism than reading Nietzsche turns you into a nihilist. The one does not lead to the other.
The last myth about nationalized healthcare found within Mr. Schmidt’s letter is that it would lead to government bureaucrats rationing care based on age and quality of life issues. In England today doctors make all decisions about healthcare, not government bureaucrats. Unfortunately in America today we actually have rationing, and most insidiously of all, it is based not on doctors’ opinions, but on private insurance profit.
The danger of Mr. Schmidt’s letter, and similar ones found throughout print media in the last few years, is that it promotes the completely false idea that the healthcare legislation act passed in 2010 led to the government take over of healthcare. Even the millions of us who wish for a system of “Improved Medicare for All” (publicly funded, privately delivered), also known as “Single Payer,” don’t want to see government running the healthcare system, and rather see the 2010 legislation as yet another handout for the private insurance industry.
The sadness of Mr. Schmidt’s letter is that the scare tactics used by him and others over the healthcare debate of recent years, hurts millions of Americans who desperately need quality care delivered at low cost. This has been achieved in England, Canada, France and a host of other advanced industrialized nations, without the creeping socialism mentioned in Mr. Schmidt’s letter. If we are not careful this country will slide back into the Red Scare era of the late 1940s and 1950s, when name calling and “guilt by association” destroyed lives and families, and prevented social progress seen in many European countries at the time, from occurring in America until many years later.
Steven Cotterill is a resident of Charles Town, W.Va.