Gordon Brown: A question of values as well as health

From a speech by the Chancellor at a debate on public services organised by Unison
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The Independent Online

For me the National Health Service is an enduring and practical expression of shared values that shape our country. The question is whether the consensus that endured on tax-funded health care for 50 years should be renewed.

The Government has examined the case for private insurance where, in the case of the US, family premiums average £100 a week and are set to rise next year on average by £13 a week, and because of its costs insures only some of the people for some of their care.

We have examined the case for funding by social insurance whose narrower base for contributions means – in France, for example – the typical employer paying £60 a week per employee and where the direct relationship between insurer and insuree usually means less investment in public health preventive health and community health services.

Because the costs of treatment and drugs are higher than ever, the risks to family finances are greater than ever, and therefore the need for comprehensive insurance cover of health care stronger than ever.

Insurance policies that, by definition, rely for their viability on ifs, buts and small print can cover only some people some of the time. No one ever knows in advance whether it is you or your family that will need that expensive care. Because charges for any one of these treatments could impoverish individuals and families far up the income scale, it is not just in the interests of a lower income family but those on middle or high incomes to be insured in the NHS's comprehensive way.

Far from being a hangover from a distant age, the NHS system of funding and care – comprehensive insurance with treatment free at the point of need – is demonstrably the modern, rational choice.