RAY Fleming in Friday's Bulletin column came out swinging for Obama's health care like a faithful old socialist warhorse. His jousting lance was to condemn Investor's Business Daily for “misrepresenting” the care that Dr. Stephen Hawking has received from the NHS. While it is true that IBD got it wrong that Dr. Hawking is covered by the NHS one might ask the question why.

If one goes to Dr, Hawking's website you will understand the source of the error. In a section describing his debilitating condition there is no mention of the NHS. None. It is as if it did not exist in his life. What he states is, “After this, I had to have 24 hour nursing care. This was made possible by grants from several foundations.” It would appear that the surmise of the IBD editorial is correct. Without his fame Dr. Hawking would not have the intensive care that he has required. Private foundations have financed his expensive care, not the NHS. At least that is the image Dr. Hawking has presented to the world before he, in gratitude (or exchange) for a medal, amended it out of politeness to pacify his host. In truth the gentleman was ill used by all concerned.

Americans are having a vigorous debate on how the finance a health care system that produces more research and medical advances than all the rest of the world combined. The traffic of folk looking to improve their treatment is one way across the Atlantic. And it is not towards socialized care. Additionally Americans have a cynic's loathing of the government and are wary of cost cutting “death panels” to do triage, especially on the elderly. Commonsense warns them that if it is expensive now, how much more will it cost when it is free. Government works that way.

Before touting Obama's push Mr. Fleming should consider that no one knows what is on the table. The process is unlike the foundation of the NHS when a war weary Britain deferred to Lord Beveridge. Several bills have been filed. Some run over a thousand pages. Obama is detached from the lot. His fingerprints are nowhere. His mouth is everywhere.

Congressmen are being confronted by citizens who have downloaded the bills, studied them and are discovering that the legislators have endorsed and are prepared to vote in a program via bills that they, the Congressmen, have not read. Only the people are doing due diligence. Is it any wonder they are skeptical? They know more about the bills than the Congress. The staffs have run amok. A majority of average Americans are in no mood to defer to these lazy fools.

But they are sure of this, not everyone has Dr. Hawking's fame to make the cut or to attract care from foundations. They do not want their private insurance opportunity to get at it taken away from them.

Democracy can be messy and both sides are throwing brickbats. It is unfortunate that the occasional footnote is erroneous, but IBD had the better of the argument. That is more important. It should not be elided over. The idea is to get it right, not pin a tail on a donkey. What it boils down to is this, whatever the details of the debate, most American families do not want to attend funerals in which the hearse has a rear bumper sticker reading, “Obama Lied, Then Granny Died.”

Ralph McGaughey, Boston, MA USA


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