Monday 14 July 2003:People are warming to the idea of paying for health insurance if it guarantees them better and faster care, according to a new poll.
The findings will encourage Conservatives, who have been developing policies based on applying consumer choice to public services by giving the voter the financial ability to choose between state or private.
Just under half of those surveyed thought a new approach to the NHS was a “good idea” – it would see adults taking out private insurance in exchange for a tax cut, while the government would pay the premiums for those on low incomes.
The ICM poll for the think-tank Reform will worry reading prime minister Tony Blair because it concentrated on crucial “swing voters” -those willing to switch parties at the next election. Its conclusions were described as “startling” because politicians have been divided over the willingness of the electorate to contemplate policies that could mean the end of the NHS as it currently exists.
On health, voters were asked if they would consider a “new approach” to the NHS, under which all adults would take out private insurance in exchange for a tax cut to cover the cost. The Government would pay the premiums for those on low incomes. 46% thought it was a “good idea” while 30% opposed it outright.
Significantly, nearly half of the Labour Party members surveyed – 44% agreed that it was a good idea.
Nick Herbert of Reform said: “This is about consumer empowerment. We live in a consumer society where voters, especially younger ones, are used to making choices. Many already have experience of using the private sector in health.”
By Barbara Cockburn