Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Bitter Pill

Aside from being a founding member of the British comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe and a celebrated opera and theater director, Jonathan Miller (b. 1934) is a trained physician. He is also one of the most vocal advocates of Britain's National Health program, and he caused some controversy* in the 1970s by speaking contemptuously of "Quisling" physicians defecting to the U.S. and spreading lies about the British system and by arguing that the word health should have been included among the "unalienable rights," "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In other words, the health of Americans should be guaranteed by the government.

In more ways than one, Miller was way ahead of his time. Three decades later, the U.S. government is apparently dealing (while trying very hard not to deal) with the issue of health care reform. Whether they deal with it now or later, the issue is not going away. But it can never succeed in a country in which socialized sounds suspiciously like socialist, and where taxpayers would rather pay through the nose to insurance companies for their health care than pay higher taxes - which is the only thing that would make it possible. If the current attempts to restart the legislative process come to nothing, as polls suggest most Americans want, the next time the bitter pill of health care reform is addressed, it may not be administered orally.

* True to form, in 1996, Miller expressed his view to the Sunday Express newspaper that chronic fatigue syndrome, was "the absolutely most fashionable disease", dismissing it as a "Chronic Fictitious Sickness".

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