I remember in about 1978 going on a bus tour into East Berlin through checkpoint Charlie. It is hard to describe to my kids what a creepy experience this was. The state-run tour was clearly run by the propaganda ministry, and they really pulled out all the stops to convince you that life was great in the East. The interesting part is that all this propaganda failed miserably. No matter what streets they took you down, you couldn't help but notice the stark contrast in prosperity between East and West. East Berlin was full of buildings in 1978 that still had not been rebuilt from WWII bomb damage (this actually might have been a plus, since much of West Berlin was rebuilt in that hideous 50's European public architecture).
The most amazing statement was when the tour guide bragged, "And over 70% of everyone in the city has running water." It was just so clueless and pathetic, to be so out of touch that what Westerners considered a statistic indicating poverty was hailed as one they thought indicated wealth.
I was reminded of this story when I read the British NHS response to an article that over 70,000 Britons a year travel abroad for health care. Their response was:
A Department of Health official said the number of patients seeking
treatment abroad was a tiny fraction of the 13 million treated on the
NHS each year.
Waiting times had fallen. Almost half of patients
were treated within 18 weeks of seeing a GP. Most people who had
hospital care did not contract infections.
I had exactly the same response as I did to the East Berlin tour guide. Half within 18 weeks?! That's PATHETIC. Again, what we Americans know to be awful service is being bragged about as a sign of excellence.
The really creepy part, though, is that America is the last place on Earth that people understand that a medical system can do much better than 18 weeks. But we are likely to elect a President in the next election whose goal is to bring our system down to the level of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, someday our grandkids may not know any better.