The criticism, widely covered in the U.K. media, has clearly stung Britain’s left-leaning Labour government. The Department of Health took the unusual step of contacting The Associated Press and e-mailing it a three-page rebuttal to what it said were misconceptions about the NHS being bandied about in the U.S. media — each one followed with the words: “Not true.”

At the top of the list was the idea that a patient in his late 70s would not be treated for a brain tumor because he was too old — a transparent reference to Grassley’s comments about Kennedy.

And what of Republicans’ claim that British patients are robbed of their medical choices? False again, the department said.

“Everyone who is cared for by the NHS in England has formal rights to make choices about the service that they receive,” the rebuttal said.

Then followed a fact sheet comparing selected statistics such as health spending per capita, infant mortality, life expectancy, and more. Each one showed England outperforming its trans-Atlantic counterpart.