The National Health Service may have to be replaced with an insurance system within the next decade, Nigel Farage has said.
The Ukip leader said anyone who believed the current way of paying for medical care in the UK had to be preserved “frankly isn’t thinking” and that he was open to “rethink[ing] the whole thing”.
Mr Farage also likened Ukip’s rise to that of Margaret Thatcher.
“There are times in a country’s politics where radical change is needed,” he told BBC’s Newsnight programme on Thursday evening.
“I lean towards Government doing less. I believe if you lift off the backs of the British people excessive regulation and the wrong levels of tax they will do better.”
He said increased spending on the NHS had brought few rewards and that a larger population might make the NHS unworkable.
“In 10, 20, or 30 years time, if the population of this country is going to be 80m, 90m, or 100m, we may have to rethink the whole thing,” he said.
Ukip's confusing policies
Ukip's confusing policies
1/6 Deport migrants
Ukip MP Mark Reckless suggested he would deport existing EU migrants, a policy Nigel Farage rejected out of hand.
2/6 US-style NHS
Farage was caught on film in 2012 saying healthcare headed towards insurance-based system, though he has since said he would keep it free at the point of use.
3/6 Handbag tax
Ukip Economy spokesman Patrick O'Flynn said he would introduce a tax on high-price items like shoes, Nigel Farage disowned this idea.
4/6 Same-sex couple adoption
Ukip candidate Winston McKenzie likened adoption by same-sex couples to "child abuse", but the party rejects that view.
5/6 Gay marriage?
In early 2014 Ukip released a statement saying it would review its gay marriage policy, but later said that was an error.
6/6 Sex education u-turn
Nigel Farage told Leaders Live that he backed sex education for under-11s but later admitted that is not Ukip policy.
“Right now what we have is a National Health Service where between 2000 and 2012 we doubled expenditure and we finished up with fewer beds. The priority now is to run it better.
“I could conceive in the future of anything happening in any policy area, and anybody in politics who tells you that what is here today must be in stone forever frankly isn’t thinking.”
Last month Mr Farage told BBC Radio 4 that there was “no question” about whether the UK needed to explore different ways to deliver healthcare.
In 2010 Ukip’s manifesto, since disowned by the party, called for the introduction of Health Credit Vouchers, which would allow people to opt-out of paying for the NHS if they did not use it.
The party is set to announce its full health policy for 2015 in its manifesto in the coming months.
In a recent international study by the US-based Commonwealth Fund the NHS ranked as the most efficient healthcare system out of 11 developed countries' systems examined.
The American healthcare system, which is insurance-based, came bottom for efficiency. Social insurance based systems such as Switzerland, France and Germany were also ranked below the UK’s system for efficiency.