As the debate on healthcare reform gets heated up in the Capitol Hill of the United States, President Obama has urged leading Senate Democrats involved in drafting a healthcare bill, to include a public health plan which will create a government-run health insurance plan to compete with the private insurance companies of the healthcare system. President Obama believes that such a plan would help consumers and keep costs down.
Most republicans and critics of the public plan argue that such a plan will drive out private insurers and lower the quality of healthcare.
As the debate gets nasty across town hall meetings and rallies in the congressional districts, the universal healthcare system of the UK National Health Care(NHS) has come under attack from the radical right wing and conservate activists. Conservatives and Republican politicians believe that the free market can fix the healthcare and all other social problems and that the government should not get involved.
Professor Stephen Hawking who was in Washington to receive America's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom has defended UK's NHS after its severe criticism during the American political debate over health care reforms.
"The physicist spoke up for the NHS after the Republican Right claimed it was 'evil' and 'Orwellian' in a direct attack on Barack Obama's plans to overhaul health care in the U.S.
Critics of the president have said his plans would introduce a 'socialist' system like Britain's.
Prof Hawkin, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease, said: 'I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS.
'I have received a large amount of high quality treatment without which I would not have survived.'
Even UK's prime minister Gordon Brown who normally avoids American party politics has defended the NHS against what his ministers described as inaccurate slurs by opponents of president Obama's plan. Mr Brown and his wife posted messages on the social networking site Twitter.
On the No 10 Twitter site, Mr Brown said: “NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there.”
Writing in the Guardian Sahil Kapur states that a study by the "Health Affairs found last year that more than 100,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses – the highest of any industrialised country. The study also said they would probably be alive if they were living in France, where they wouldn't have been denied care. The US can prevent these deaths, and as other industrialised countries demonstrate, it is easily doable.
Embracing a system in which people die from neglect is morally indefensible, particularly in a country that guarantees the right to life and has the resources to carry out this promise."
The United States spends far more per capita (and as a percentage of GDP) on healthcare than the rest of the developed world, while every other industrialised country has much stronger government presence in healthcare. Along with lower costs, they also achieve universal coverage, and tend to enjoy higher satisfaction rates.