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U.K. Officials Deflect Criticism of Country’s Health System

In the United Kingdom, a debate has erupted over how the government-operated health care system is being portrayed recently in the United States.

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    Now, the health care debate, take two. It's about how it has triggered another debate in Great Britain over how its government-operated National Health Service has been portrayed in the U.S.

    NewsHour correspondent Simon Marks has that story.


    If British public opinion polls are any guide, David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, stands a good chance of being the country's next prime minister. National elections are due to take place by next spring, and today the man who faces off against the current prime minister, Gordon Brown, was moving to project himself as an ardent defender of Britain's government-run National Health Service.

    DAVID CAMERON, British opposition leader: We'll invest in it. We'll expand it. We think it's a really important and great national institution. The fact that, in this country, you can go to a hospital, you can go to a family doctor, and they don't ask you how much money is in your bank account or who you are or whether you're a man or a woman or live in the town or the countryside, it's one of our great national institutions, and we want to expand it.


    Mr. Cameron's public pronouncements resulted from the British public reaction to this…

    DANIEL HANNAN, member, European Parliament: I could tell you horror stories…


    … one in a series of U.S. media appearances by Daniel Hannan, who represents Mr. Cameron's Conservative Party in the European Parliament and who has been ubiquitous this week on conservative cable shows and talk radio slamming the National Health Service.


    The health care system that we have is a kind of relic of an era in Britain when the state was considered all-powerful and benign, and when we had rationing, and when we had I.D. cards, and when we had mass nationalization. And we're still stuck with it, because, you know, once you get a system like that…

    SEAN HANNITY, anchor, Fox News: Can't get rid of it.


    … it's almost impossible to get rid of.