Chancellor Gordon Brown has ruled out a role for private medical insurers in the provision of health care, saying the way forward for the NHS is by funding through general taxation.
In his budget speech, Brown said the Government was committed to a free at point of use, publicly funded NHS rather than alternative funding arrangements.
PMI insurers have rejected the Chancellor's claim, saying there is a need for wider debate on healthcare funding.
Brown said: “We believe the best provision is through general taxation. The alternatives are social insurance, private insurance or charging where people would still pay but pay directly. There is no free way of increasing health spending and the question for Britain today is whether a case has been made for moving to pay through social insurance, private insurance or charging.”
Brown referred to the US system where private insurance plays a greater role, saying it only insures some of the people for some of their care. He said paying privately threatened to overwhelm family budgets so it was important instead to have coverage with the minimum of ifs, buts, small print and exclusion.
Standard Life Healthcare chief executive Mike Hall says: “Despite the Chancellor's dismissal of alternative funding methods, we still believe the private sector has a role to play in the future funding of healthcare.”
PPP Healthcare medical director Adrian Bull says: “We think it is a mistake to suggest the country can rely on a health system funded by general taxation.”
Norwich Union Healthcare spokeswoman Louise Zucchi says: “It is very disappointing the Government does not seem to want to discuss at this stage greater cooperation with the private sector. We strongly believe the best way forward is a partnership between the two.”