If readers have noticed of late, a strange but very distant swirling, roaring noise like the sound of a distant hurricane coming from the direction of South Wales; it will be the cremated remains of the late Right Honourable, Aneurin Bevan – the chief architect of the National Health Service. The hurricane will be over the formerly peaceful surroundings of Gwent Crematorium in Croesyceiliog (Cockerel’s Cross) the suburb of Cwmbran in Monmouthshire where the great man was laid to rest.
Why? You ask? What could possibly be of such moment to cause the great man to react so when throughout the period Mrs Thatcher was in office we heard nothing?
Well clearly, Mr Bevan would not have agreed of most of Mrs Thatcher’s works but Mrs Thatcher did not threaten the very essence of the NHS. She may well have wished to and did tamper with it, but even she knew that there was a point at which she could not go, or risk huge resistance from the electorate.
Readers will of course be aware that over recent years successive governments – including Labour ones – have introduced private enterprise into the NHS – in one form or another. To date, it has been limited but threatens to become much, much more prevalent – so much so that the NHS could be replaced with a US style privatised health care system.
You see a new trade deal is being negotiated right now between the US and the EU. This is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
If implemented, US healthcare companies trying to provide NHS services could sue the government for failing to move forward with the full privatisation of the NHS. Businesses could also sue the government for raising the minimum wage – if they can demonstrate to a court it hurts their profits.
The driving force behind this are the many and large private healthcare companies in the USA. They and the politicians they fund the electoral campaigns of (Senators and Congressmen) have long had the British NHS is their sights. To say that these characters don’t like the NHS is to overstate the matter considerably. Let us put it this way: The Right Honourable Aneurin Bevan would be about as welcome at a Republican Party convention as Mr Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas would be at the Bar Mitzvah of a member of Mr Benjamin Netanyahu’s family.
These politicians describe the British NHS as “socialised medicine” and the term is not meant as a compliment. The term is however essentially correct – as the late Tony Benn used to enjoy pointing out – and it is one Tories such as Cameron recoil from; partly because it is true and partly because Cameron, like most other Prime Ministers before him obsequiously pander to the wishes of the USA.
At the top of the wish list of the companies making a good business from US healthcare (these include not only the pharmaceutical companies but the insurance companies and service industries generally) is that the NHS “goes away.” This is because there are a lot of Americans who are rather envious of the NHS and would like something along those lines in the USA.
Because they are not very rich. You see, it can be said that the USA has the best healthcare system in the world. The best doctors, the best nurses, the best equipped hospitals and so forth. But these state of the art facilities are only available if you can afford it.
Most US citizens have their healthcare provided by employee based health insurance schemes. That when they fall ill the employer provided scheme will pick up the tab. This works well enough in the case of something like a broken leg. However for a serious chronic disease like cancer the insurance is limited. Like all private insurance policies there is a claims limit. If a claim goes beyond this, it is not met. That mean that such unfortunates then receive a second class emergency service funded by the US taxpayer. But only after they have been bankrupted.
Why? Are these insurance providers mean and nasty?
No. They are private businesses and not charities. Like any business, they have to operate using commercial common sense. The simple fact of the matter is this: provision of private healthcare insurance on a young man aged 21 who has no family history of serious diseases, who possesses a healthy BMI, does not smoke, does not drink much, is a member of a sports club and eats healthy food is reasonably affordable. Private healthcare insurance on a 65 year old terminally ill woman suffering from cancer is not.
Vince Cable will decide what this country signs up to – he could make or break the deal. A petition is here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/petition-ttip