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Recently it emerged that the aging population is now a drain on the economy. Of course, it is easy to understand how the elders of society can cost more than the younger generations, as it is typically in old age that we require increased healthcare and medication. However, it is one thing to say the elderly cost more money than youngsters, but it is quite another to say they are, in and of themselves, a drain on the economy.
It is a baffling proposition: old people are draining the economy that they spent their whole lives paying into. Unless each pensioner is racking up astronomical medical bills, it is most unlikely that they take out more than they have paid in. And if what we pay doesn’t cover our eventual withdrawals, one must wonder what purpose the NHS has these days. We are increasingly told that smokers, drinkers and obese people “drain” its resources, despite the huge amount of money smokers alone pay through cigarette tax, and now the elderly are a target too.
If the NHS is unable to cope with these three causes of illness, does it have any value at all? If, as we are told, we are a drain on the NHS, just what happened to all the money that each working adult pours into it to ensure healthcare when required? We are instructed to stop smoking, cut back on drinking and watch what we eat so we save the NHS money by living longer – but now living longer is akin to siphoning untold sums of money out of the organisation.
What is most troubling about this is the idea that the money apparently isn’t there. After all, it should be there: each working citizen has been paying for it long enough. Just what is the purpose of giving a very generous slice of your pay cheque to National Insurance if you can’t use it for what it’s intended?
Such a circumstance would not be tolerated elsewhere: if you paid private health insurance each month only to be told the money won’t actually be used to treat you, you would be able to sue the company for defrauding you. National Insurance is precisely that – insurance – so there is room to argue that the British citizens are being defrauded too.
How much of this ‘defrauding’ is going on? Yorkshire NHS managers are proposing to stop smokers and the obese from having hip and knee surgery, apparently on the basis that their lifestyle choices lower the chance of success of the operation.
Something has been overlooked here, though: the smokers and obese are due a refund. Not just from their National Insurance, but a hefty chunk of the 76% tax per pack of cigarettes goes to the NHS; smokers pay into the British treasury around £10 billion annually, and ASH estimate that they take out in healthcare costs between £1.5-2.5 billion a year, giving the public purse a very nice surplus. If they are not being given the treatment they have paid for, they should be given their money back.
This leads onto the premise that if the NHS is unable to provide what it exists for, why are we retaining it? If it really is losing money, and unable to treat the people paying for it, we would all be better off using the money we spend on it to pay private insurance instead, paying our own personal health fund that we know will be there when we need it.