A recent review of the health and social care system concluded that applying a higher rate of National Insurance (NI) to the over 40s and anyone earning over £42,000 would entitle them to free care later on in life. For this initiative to work the NHS would need to merge with the care system, which. to be honest, seems sensible. Currently, thousands of elderly people who are struck down by dementia are forced to pay for their care themselves despite contributing, via tax, to the NHS their whole lives.
Meanwhile, people with other long-term conditions are being looked after for free by the NHS. Through combining the two systems, free care will be provided to all elderly people. However, I do use the phrase ‘all elderly people’ lightly, as it has been suggested that they would have to be considered ‘frail enough’ to qualify, which seems slightly vague. The next step then is to provide funding to allow the above to take place. This is where it gets really controversial, as it is predicted that to provide free healthcare to all elderly people it would cost an extra £5 billion a year, double the current elderly care budget in England. To raise these funds, amongst the recommendations, such as ‘hotel’ fees to people in hospital and limiting the winter fuel allowance for elderly people. It was suggested to increase the NI paid by the middle aged and middle classes by 1%, in return they would receive free care (if considered frail enough) later on in life.
Currently, anyone in England and Wales who has assets worth more than £23,000 gets no support from the state in regards to care, no matter how frail they are. Therefore, these proposals do seem like a step in the right direction. However, I think they will be struggling for support for any of the recommendations put forward in order to raise the funds. The recommendations concerning the elderly are extremely controversial and I believe it will be difficult to persuade the middle aged and middle classes to pay more tax today in the event that they may need care in the future. It will be interesting to see what comes of these proposals as well as to see other people’s views.