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August 15, 2009

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Britons rush to defend health care system

BRITONS reacted with outrage yesterday at American criticism of the country's health care system and defended their cradle-to-grave medical coverage on Twitter, television and in the tabloids.

Right-wing attacks on United States President Barack Obama's health reform plans have struck a nerve in Britain, where residents broadly take for granted their universal coverage under the state-funded National Health Service -- and look askance at the millions of Americans without insurance.

"Land of the Fee," declared the Daily Mirror in reference to the United States' high-charging health model. The London newspaper called the "lies and distortions" being circulated in the US about the NHS "truly sickening."

"Jaw droppingly untruthful," said the British Medical Association's Chairman Hamish Meldrum.

"NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death," Prime Minister Gordon Brown tweeted. "Thanks for always being there."

Even British health campaigner Kate Spall -- who criticizes NHS failings in US television ads produced by Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a lobby group that opposes Obama's plans -- declared that the group had misled her and was distorting her true views. Spall's mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment.

"There are failings in the system but I'm not anti-NHS at all," Spall told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Britain's opposition Conservative Party is distancing itself from its maverick member of European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, who has criticized the NHS on US news programs. Tory leader David Cameron dismissed Hannan as having "eccentric views."

The NHS, founded in 1948, is the cornerstone of the United Kingdom's welfare state.


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