While she is at least being inventive, I don\’t think she\’s quite grasped the major problem here.
James Lloyd of the International Longevity Centre has produced an ingenious social insurance scheme the Department of Health is studying with enthusiasm. The joy of this scheme is that it is voluntary: payment only applies to the over-65s, when people really are thinking about care, and people can choose how they pay. This is the proposal: at 65 everyone with the money or property to afford it is asked to pay £15,000 as a lump sum to an independent national care fund. Or they can pay a set sum a month. Or they can have it taken from their estate after death. (The state would pay into the fund for pensioners with no assets.) Everyone would pay automatically unless they opt out, which they can but only after a one-to-one session warning them that they will pay all their care themselves, at a far higher private cost.
Gamblers can calculate the odds. Half of women and a third of men will need intensive long-term care: residential care costs about £22,000 a year. Many others will need expensive extra care in their own home. So most wise families would opt in: inertia would favour it, anyway. The sum of £15,000 assumes current care standards, but it might be quite a lot more if the public demands higher universal standards. But the scheme guarantees the same minimum level wherever people live; and administratively, one fund entirely independent of the Treasury would save the current cost of 185 councils each trying to chase the private assets of each well-off pensioner to recover care costs. Best of all, this takes only from the already retired.
This voluntary, late-in-life or after-death payment scheme ticks every box. Above all, it reminds people, as the NHS did in 1948, that paying collectively to insure against financially crippling risks is the wisest as well as the fairest way.
That major problem being that we\’re still right where we started, even if at a higher level of finance. We\’re dependent upon whatever the State decides to offer us. For we\’ve already paid and thus have no leverage at all over what gets provided.
We have the same situation with the NHS: our taxes are used to provide what the producers think we should have. With education: our taxes are used to give us what the producers think we should have. And when you compare what we do get offered to what is available from the private sector in both fields, well, let\’s be polite and say that there\’s a certain disparity in standards shall we?
The same would inevitably be true of long term care for the elderly. Once we\’ve handed over the money there is no leverage for us to get what we desire, rather than what people desire to give us.
Surely the lesson has sunk in by now? As the last ten years have shown us, it\’s not the financing of public services which is a problem, it\’s the structure of their delivery. Or doesn\’t she think that we\’ve tested the throw more money at them solution to destruction already?