More private medicine please, and that's on the Guardian

Back in the 1980s, hardline Thatcherites used to argue that people who could afford private health insurance should take it up. They were right

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Make it private
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The Commentator
On 30 July 2013 11:08

Wonders never cease. one opens up the Guardian (not the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail; the Guardian!) today to see an article from Melissa Kite on the paper's flagship Comment is free page arguing that people who can afford to do so should get private health insurance to take the burden off the creaking old National Health Service (NHS).

Predictably, she's being slated for it in the thread below the article, and it's worth pointing out that Ms. Kite is a Contributing Editor to the Right-leaning Spectator magazine. But, it's something close to a miracle the Guardian would run the piece at all. If there is one issue fully deserving of the description "neuralgic" on the British Left, it is socialised medicine and the NHS.

The argument that people who are able to pay for their own health care should do so, was a centre-piece of the thinking of the Thatcherite ideologues of the 1980s. They were rightly accused of wanting to privatise British health care by stealth, leaving the state sector only for those who genuinely couldn't pay or had chronic illnesses that were uninsurable.

It's obviously an excellent idea, sure to improve health care generally, but most especially for those who would remain under the umbrella of an NHS with far more resources at its disposal to do the job it should be doing.

One swallow doesn't make a summer. But, with one damaging report after another in Britain about the country's failing National Health Service, it always seemed likely that the NHS's supporters would not long be able to hold the line.

British health care outcomes are not only far below those in the United States, they're considerably worse than in many European countries that have compulsory insurance schemes. Cancer survival rates are now worse in Britain than in some of the formerly communist countries of central and eastern Europe.

Plainly the NHS isn't working. UK healthcare needs a radical overhaul, and a serious debate about what that should entail.

We rarely salute the Guardian. But if they have helped kick off a much needed public discussion, then all credit to them. The nation's health will be better for it.

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