GLOBAL VIEW: Canadian, German, British Views on U.S. Health Reform, Supreme Court Ruling
People in countries with universal health care systems — like Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany — have been puzzled by the sharp divide in the U.S. over the federal health reform law and the Supreme Court’s ruling on the law.
News coverage and editorials about the law and the court ruling generally were critical of the diverging attitudes, but some of them suggested that U.S. residents will grow to accept and appreciate the law.
Canadian National Post columnist Jonathan Kay wrote, “To Canadian eyes, America’s ideological war over health policy … can appear bizarre.” Pointing out that most other industrialized countries have provided all citizens with access to health care, Kay asked, “Why do Americans have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a policy choice that the rest of the civilized world decided long ago was a cornerstone of a humane society?” In Canada, universal health care is seen as a policy issue, not “an existential national-identity trauma, as Obamacare has become” in the U.S., he added.
In a Toronto Globe and Mail opinion piece, Derek Jones and Colleen Sheppard of the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism wrote that the ruling will enable the U.S. to continue on its “incremental path toward a right to health” — a right that is left out of both the U.S. and Canadian constitutions — and it is “a momentous step forward.”
In a recent BBC World Service report on American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report,” BBC health care correspondent Dominic Hughes said the U.K. views the U.S. as being hostile toward the idea of a national health care system, which to the British “is hard to understand, given the general affection [they] have for the National Health Service.” Hughes added that British politicians mess with their citizens’ health care “at their peril.”
Over in Germany, the country’s people are “bewildered as to why so many Americans appear to be against universal coverage,” Der Spiegel news reporter Miriam Widman wrote recently. “[M]andated coverage is something that is simply not questioned in Germany,” she added, noting that “even the most pro-market politicians wouldn’t dare to dismantle the country’s health insurance system.”
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, an editorial in Der Spiegel noted that “German health care experts have long had difficulty understanding the debate in the United States because mandatory health care insurance has been required for decades in Germany.” It cited a commentary in Süddeutsche Zeitung, a center-left German publication, which called it “a scandal that the biggest industrial nation in the world allows 50 million of its citizens — nearly one-sixth of the population — to go without health insurance.” The piece added that the lack of insurance is “indefensible for humanitarian reasons” and that “[t]his antiquated health care system is a symbol of America’s moral destitution.”
By Michelle Stuckey, staff writer