As somebody who is gearing up to experience British "socialized medicine" firsthand for the next few years--ironically because the very same college home to Stephen "My country is killing me (not)!" Hawking is giving me a scholarship--I must say that the difference in discourse btw. the UK and the US is fascinating:
University Literature (verbatim): All overseas students (including spouses and children) on a course lasting longer than six months are entitled to free medical care under the National Health Service (N.H.S.).
Me: Okay, so what sorts of monthly payments, premiums, co-pays, incident maximums etc. is that going to involve?
University Literature (in spirit): What part of the word "free" do you not understand? Do you speak English where you're from?
Me (in spirit): Ha.
Technically, it's not actually free. It's paid out of taxes. But as an impoverished grad student, I'm not going to be paying much in the way of taxes, so in practice, it's close to free. Here is the unspoken compact, ideally anyway, that is being made: When you need help, the community takes care of you--and when others need help, you, as a member of the community, come to their aid to the extent that you are able. Furthermore, a healthy community (one that includes overseas students and their immediate families) benefits everybody.
This discourse is utterly absent from the American health care debate, and we are, I think, much poorer for its lack.
Still, I do think that Bob Herbert does a fabulous job at getting to the heart of why the Obama administration's idea of "reform" isn't in today's column