Given what’s happening to the NHS right now, Brits are in no position to be patronising about the US bringing universal health coverage up to the level of, say, Wilhelmine Germany . But this piece in which a presenter on Chinese TV tries to explain to his audience the issues around the US healthcare debate does show how weird that debate is:
He did so using a short Chinese cartoon, animated with “South Park”-style characters and titled “Obama’s Health-Care Reform War.” It begins with an image of a castle under a blue sky, and a narrator’s voice:
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful country. Legend had it that these people lived in peace and contentment, never worrying much about their livelihood. But that bright and shiny exterior concealed a surprising reality: “We don’t have universal health care!” One sixth of the country, fifty million people, have no insurance, spending their days anxious that some sudden illness will wrest away the good life.
Over the early reform period, China went rapidly from a system of universal but massively under-resourced state healthcare provision straight to a pay as you go setup, without the complementary insurance market: you went to see the doctor, and you put your money down. You still do, a lot of the time, despite recent expansion in state medical insurance. Given that experience under a dictatorship, people find it hard to understand not only the debate in the US but why there is one at all: everyone gets a vote. Therefore your country has universal health coverage. What ‘s the problem here?