As my old editor Andrew Neil argues in this week's Daily Beast:
The NHS is regularly dismissed by U.S. critics of American reform as "socialized medicine." This is strange to trans-Atlantic ears. Most Brits don't think there's anything "socialist" about the NHS—it enjoys all-party support, including all right-of-center parties. The British Conservatives, who gave the world privatization under Margaret Thatcher, are totally committed to a national health service, tax-funded and free at the point of use (and Mrs. T never challenged these principles either). The parties disagree about how to run it—the Conservatives and the Blairites want less central control, more patient choice, less bureaucratic distribution of resources—but all are agreed on the basic principle behind it.
And that's not just true of Britain. The fact is that all mainstream right-of-center parties across continental Europe regard some kind of national health service covering everybody and largely free at the point of use as not particularly "socialist." There is broad consensus on the left, right and center about this. Most people don't think of it as socialized medicine—just a key feature of a modern, rich, civilized society. When you try to explain this to those opposing a health-care overhaul in America, either they don't believe you or think you're making it up. It is striking just how far apart America's Republicans (and anti-reform Blue Dog Democrats) are from what should be their natural European allies, like the British Conservatives, the French Gaullists, and the German Christian Democrats on this issue.
The fact is health care on both sides of the Atlantic is rationed: in Britain, it is rationed by queue (though with the billions of pounds thrown at the NHS in recent years the queues are diminishing) and in America by price (no health insurance, no right to health care). Americans might like to ponder that it is better to be in a queue for health care that not qualify for any at all—which is the plight of those 47 million Americans who have no health insurance.