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&#39NHS should take on insurer role&#39

The NHS should become an insurer competing with private providers to offer an improved service to patients, says Norwich Union Healthcare.

The PMI provider has rel-eased a paper, prepared by economic consultants Nat-ional Economic Research Associates and supported by left-wing thinktank, the Social Market Foundation, calling for a new public/private partnership model in funding healthcare costs.

The paper, Towards Stakeholder Healthcare, proposes that individuals would choose a core package of comprehensive coverage, including all essential treatments, offered either by the NHS or a private insurer.

Speaking at the annual Laing & Buisson Private Healthcare Insurance Conference in London last week, NUHC commercial director Tim Baker said: “Many people are willing to pay for extra health services beyond those provided by the NHS. Our model reflects this while making optimum use of the experience of the NHS and creating a partnership between the public and private sectors which we believe would bring great benefits to everyone.”

The plan would be funded by income-related rates as opposed to risk-related rates, as most private schemes currently operate. This means customers would pay a percentage of their income as opposed to a premium linked to what the provider perceives to be the risk of a claim.

Income tax rates would be reduced to reflect this change in funding. Government funding would still exist for disabled or unemployed people.

While the basic package from all insurers would offer the same coverage, prices would vary and providers could offer top-up packages which included services not deemed essential.

NUHC concedes that the model would take about 10 years to implement and says it is trying to stimulate debate with the Government and industry. It will present the paper to Health Secretary Alan Milburn at the Labour Party conference next week.

Baker said: “Part of the reason for launching this is to say that there are different ways to fund healthcare. Here is an alternative proposal. Let us collectively look and see what the merits of it are.”

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