PMI has once again become the subject of political wrangling, after prime minister Tony Blair branded Conservative plans to extend medical insurance coverage as effectively a “tax on the elderly”.
Speaking to Labour members in Watford, Blair said, rather than modernise or expand the NHS, the Tories would look to expand PMI if they got back into power.
He said: “Their own health spokesman [Dr Liam Fox] described this – rightly – as their ‘Trojan horse’.
“He talked of ‘conditions that are not high-tech or expensive, like hip and knee replacements, hernia and cataract operations, which currently involve long waiting times’ as those that should be done through private insurance.
“The vast majority of these treatments are for elderly people, who could not afford PMI in place of NHS treatment.”
According to the Labour Party website, the average income of a pensioner couple is around £250 a week. PMI for such a couple would cost between £3,500-£4,500 a year, the equivalent of £67-£87 a week.
Shadow health secretary Fox retaliated by stating that Blair’s “repeated, tired and boring lies about Conservative health policies are a smokescreen to disguise how badly the government is failing elderly people.”
However, when challenged on the issue by Alan Milburn in the House of Commons at the end of October last year, Fox refused to deny that the Conservative Party had no long term plans to force the general public to take out PMI.
Exeter Friendly Society general manager for business development Robin Payne was reluctant to comment on hypothetical policies that may or may not bear fruit.
However, he said: “If you are talking about tax liability for the elderly in terms of PMI, you have to remember it was the current government that abolished medical insurance tax relief for the over 60s.”
Standard Life Healthcare spokesperson Mandy Blanks commented: “We are not aware that the Tories plan to introduce compulsory PMI for anyone. But we understand that they would look to reverse Labour’s decision to abolish tax relief on PMI, which penalises those wishing to make provision for their own healthcare.”
Blanks added: “Furthermore, we wholeheartedly support a comprehensive NHS and agree with the Tories’ objective of finding positive ways in which the public and private health sectors can work together.”