13 Aug 2009

Bit Fucking Rich

Right-wing American conservatives making statements that are innaccurate is nothing new, and I usually take it with a a pinch of salt, but now thanks to Obama's proposed healthcare plans (which are nowhere near as universal or extensive as our own) they've really ratcheted up their criticism, and used our dear old NHS as an example of a bad healthcare system.

Anyone who watches ER or Scrubs will see that their hospitals look more fun, with better kit and overalls, and for some it seems that this is the argument why the US system is 'better' than ours.

OK, ours is creaky in places, but it covers everyone compared to 40-odd million Americans who have nothing except the most basic of emergency treatment. Not only this, the US spends around 12% of its GDP on healthcare and it is unaffordable to many, whereas we spend 6% of our GDP on it, and its universal.

I can only imagine that we're going to see the private health lobby descend into more and more dirty tricks and innaccuracies in the months to come, and depressing as it sounds, I can't help thinking that Obama is going to be defeated on this just like Clinton was in the 1990's.

The power that HMO's, medical 'professionals' and the pharmaceutical industry have over not just politics but culture in the US is extensive. Having visited the US a few times, I'm always amazed that prescription drugs are widely advertised on TV, usually with the tagline "ask your Doctor about XXX-Brand-Shizzle" and then "WARNINGthisproductcancauseanalleakagediscargesunpleasantrashesdepressionsuicidesocialostracismlossoffriends andfamilyglobalapocalypseandrandomtwitching".

When I was on a school exchange at age 17, I stayed with a family whose patriarch was a doctor, and he lived in a 'Golf Community' in a small town in South Carolina. On my arrival, I presented gifts from my own fair city to the family, and in return when I left, I was given a bag of freebies that had been given to said doctor. To be honest, most of it was pretty shit (cuddly toy, a cd of love songs, lots of pens and pencils, a face mask, a hat, a shirt and some alcohol wipes*) but the doc said the he received all sorts from the drug companies, including holidays, electrical goods and various other incentives to encourage him to prescribe their drug over someone elses. This seemed quite ethically dubious in my view, but I resisted the temptation to say:

"Surely the reason we put our trust in doctors and medical professionals is because the general public is not an expert in the effects of medicines, and you people have had at least 5 years to learn more than most?"

And also the point that people should take medicines that work and represent good value, rather than based on which company has the most money to bribe doctors with.



*I actually had quite a good time setting fire to these.

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