David Blackburn

It is Fox News, not Daniel Hannan, who present a clear choice between the US and the UK health systems

It is Fox News, not Daniel Hannan, who present a clear choice between the US and the UK health systems
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Daniel Hannan appeared on Fox News again, this time with Sean Hannity. I do not agree with Hannan’s assessment of the NHS, but I do think that this affair has been overblown. Hannan is not presenting a straight choice between the US and the UK models; that division has arisen through Fox News’ presentation of what Hannan is saying.  

Hannity’s website features this transcript:

HANNITY: And one of the reasons I wanted to have you back. For example, I have here — last time you were on, it had been decided a week before that you have a government rationing body, your national health service is what it's called. And I read the British papers all the time. And they had just determined that they were not going to provide life-saving medication to women with advanced breast cancer. And I asked you, was that a death sentence, and your answer was?

HANNAN: Yes, I mean, of course. And if you then try to purchase and your own treatment outside the national health service, they will cut off treatment you were getting from the NHS. Because they have this bias against the private sector.

To be fair, some of that - there was such an outcry about that - that some of that has been modified, but you get a pretty good picture of the mentality.

HANNITY: Because it's not uncommon — because we have people from Canada come to America because of long waits and inferior care. We have people from Great Britain coming here for elective surgery and emergency surgery and the same thing with France.

HANNAN: I mean, the thing that you may find hard to believe is that you go along and you say, I need a hip replacement. Or you know, I need treatment for prostate cancer. And they will say, thank you, the queue is over there. We'll see you in October of next year or whatever it is. I mean, it's unbelievable.

People are left in pain, in positions where they can't work, where they're losing income at the back of the queue, waiting for permission to get treatment. And there's nothing you can do about it.’

From that it seems Hannan is presenting a clear-cut choice. But if you watch the interview in full you get a different impression. Hannan is unquestionably opposed to Obama’s plan (and the NHS), but he frames his argument within America’s national debate. At about 4 minutes in, he asserts that increasing the size of the state runs contrary to America’s founding principles; but he is quick to point out that those supporting Obama’s plans are patriotic and not un-American:

“People of goodwill think that, and we should be clear about that Sean. The people who think that are not wicked right; they’ve just sincerely reached a position that’s different from ours.... I have met good, sincere Americans in both parties and this is a democracy, an open and accountable system of government.”    

Yet, how is Fox News characterising Hannan’s argument as a whole? You guessed it – “Healthcare bill is deeply un-American”.