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How Europeans view the U.S. health care debate

A patient is taken to the operating theatre in the recently opened Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital on February 7, 2011 in Birmingham, England.

Jeff Horwich: We're expecting that Supreme Court decision today. The problems that got us here -- rising health care costs, the pull between personal liberty and the social safety net. These are familiar around the world -- even if the solutions have been very different.

The BBC's healthcare correspondent is Dominic Hughes. He's with me from the U.K. Hello.

Dominic Hughes: Good morning.

Horwich: Here in the U.S. I've seen people liken this moment, this public anticipation, to the OJ verdict. Are folks in your part of the world at all riveted by this?

Hughes: Well, it was reported, actually, on our morning news this morning. And you know, it's interesting watching the debate in the states from here, where we have, obviously, a taxpayer-funded national health service -- which has undergone a lot of shakeups over recent decades, but the most fundamental reforms in recent months; which many critics of those reforms said were transforming it into something more akin to the U.S. system.

And people here really value the national health service here. We see that from patient satisfaction surveys; they've been at historic highs in recent years. People are very fond of the national health service and it's something that politicians here in the U.K. meddle with at their peril.

Horwich: Now, now to imply that Americans give a rip what anybody else thinks -- but, let's say the law falls, as some people expect. What are Europeans going to take away from that result, in terms of their view of us?

Hughes: Well, I think people will view that as there is this in-built, fundamental conservatism about the United States. That's kind of the message that we get over here, that people do not like the state to interfere with fundamental aspects of their lives. There is this resistance to that -- no more so than demonstrated in health care. And the view we get is that people in America do not like, and do not want, the government encroaching on more and more areas of their lives. So there is this hostility towards the government trying to create a sort of national health care system -- which to our minds is hard to understand, given the general affection we have for the national health service.

Horwich: Dominic Hughes, the BBC's health care correspondent. Thank you very much.

Hughes: No problem.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.
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