Monday, 22 September 2014

Is medical insurance 'morally wrong'

Someone said to me (by e-mail) today that someone buying medical insurance is 'morally wrong'.

Everyone of course is entitled to their opinion and so of course I am about to put mine forward.

I have to take exception to this on a number of different levels. First of all, objecting to an entire multi-billion pound industry that supports thousands of people's livelihood is clearly wrong. Perhaps better to target the tobacco or alcohol industries instead ?

Especially given that private medicine clearly makes a lot of people better when they are ill. You might not like that the care provided is paid for (although of course the NHS care is paid for through direct taxation and most people pay a hell of a lot more tax than they spend on medical insurance premiums). It is true to say that not everyone can afford medical insurance - there is a financial price to be paid. However, the medical insurance industry pays tens of millions of pounds back into the NHS - all PMI insurers regularly send their policy holders to use private facilities within the NHS as part of their treatment and without this infusion of income many NHS Trusts would be further financially embarrassed than they are. Categorically it is not the fault of the private sector that the publicly funded NHS is in a bad state in some areas or treatment specialisms - that is solely the responsibility of the managers within the NHS and the central government bodies that are supposed to run them efficiently.

The NHS regular uses private hospitals to supplement NHS hospitals by using private facilities for tranches of treatment - for example in Leeds the Nuffield Hospital has been regularly used for NHS patients - freeing up time and space in various NHS teams. One assumes that it was more cost effective to provide this treatment this way than in NHS facilities. Even if it was just to reduce waiting list numbers - that isn't the private sectors fault, it is the fault of the government body that made the decision to undertake this course of action and it certainly reflects in no way on the end purchaser of medical insurance !

It is also worth noting that those people with PMI do not form part of NHS waiting lists and so are actually allowing other people to be seen earlier - with the private sector banned (as my correspondent seemed to want) can anyone actually imagine there would be more capacity or money with the NHS ?

I can understand that some people may have a political objection to private insurance on the basis of supporting the NHS - I have encountered this mindset many times in my career and whilst not agreeing with it I am open minded enough to understand their objection.

I would however ask the following questions - are private pensions morally wrong because the government pays a state pension - how dare someone save to get more than the old age pension.

Is sickness cover on your mortgage payment an outrage - the government provides after all social security and unemployment benefit it I am too sick to work.

It is sometimes very easy to knock something that we haven't taken the time to understand and consider fully but I find it morally wrong to condemn private medical insurance without first considering the logical extension of the argument being made.

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