Monday, August 24, 2009

A Recipe For Unsustainable Health Care

Cameron's proposed NHS policy uncharacteristic and foolish

In the midst of a controversy surrounding a Tory MP's criticisms of the National Health Service, British Conservative party leader has managed to provoke a controversy within his own caucus.

In response to scathing criticisms stemming from Daniel Hannan's recent voicing of criticisms of the NHS on Fox News, Cameron has proposed to commit to annually increasing government spending on the NHS at a rate exceeding inflation.

Naturally, this has created a division within his party caucus. What he may not have expected is that his caucus would so firmly align against his proposal.

Only 29% of Cameron's caucus agreed with his plan. 62% of his MPs disagreed.

Furthermore, only 33% agreed that the current funding model for the NHS would be sustainable for another period of 60 years. 62% didn't.

The same poll of Cameron's MPs found that they wanted the introduction of a broader role for private health insurance.

Former Conservative Health Secretary Ann Widdecombe has called for wealthy Britons to use private health care in order to relieve undue strain on the public system -- something that would likely require a greater role for private health care.

"We urgently need the debate -- I think politicians of all parties have shied away from it for too long," she said. "We should look without prejudice at a range of options."

And while there's certainly nothing wrong with Widdecombe's call for a greater debate, one can certainly expect the Labour party -- which has been so utterly ham-fisted over Daniel Hannan's remarks -- to take full advantage of both her comments and the results of this particular poll.

Perhaps the greater problem for Cameron, however, is that his MPs are perfectly justified in opposing his proposal.

Allowing the funding of any government program -- even one as integral as health care -- to increase at a rate greater than inflation is a recipe for an absolute fiscal disaster.

If the funding for the National Health Service increased at a rate greater than inflation, it would be unsustainable well within the 60 year window the ComRes poll uses as its frame of reference.

Certainly, David Cameron cannot allow the Labour party to have a free hand in painting his party with the "secret agenda" tar brush that so successfully managed to mar his party's Canadian counterpart.

But Cameron needs to focus on responsible policies, and make sure that any policy he proposes can be sustainable. He should be more than happy to leave the politics of irresponsibility to his opponents.

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