What would you think if a burglar broke into your home, took all your valuables and then came knocking on the door and said you could have them back but only if you promised never to eat beef on a Friday? Perhaps you'd make the promise anyway, but how would you feel about the situation?
That is what Gordon Brown wants to do with the NHS it seems. According to the Daily Mail (which is well placed to know Gordon Brown's plans thanks to it's editor's friendship with the PM) there are plans to make NHS services conditional upon lifestyle. So, if you're fat, or you smoke, or you drink, then the NHS will be able to refuse treatment.
The social authoritarian plans appear to now be that they will take your money in National Insurance contributions which you have no choice about, and then they will only provide you with services back if you follow their rules about how you ought to live. In other words, the Government will now not only reserve the legal right to take part of your earnings, but it will also reserve the right to give you bugger all back for the money as well.
Well excuse me for a moment, but that really does make my taxes closer to theft than ever before. No one particularly likes paying tax, but in the current NHS system at least there is a trade-off when you do it. You know that you have access to services because you are one of the people that is paying for them through your taxes.
Whilst you don't have a choice about whether you pay tax or not you do at least there is a principle at play that means you are "buying" something with it. However, if you're a smoker, what is now being proposed is that you're buying insurance that you have no choice about and being told that conditions of that insurance are being changed and that it's just "tough shit".
Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with the policy per se. Insurance always comes with conditions, but the crucial problems is that I cannot choose not to pay National Insurance. As such we're back to the burglar analogy. My money is being stolen from me and then the Government has the cheek to offer it me back with conditions.
If the Gordon Brown wants the NHS to act like a private medical system that has graduated insurance policies defining what is and what is not covered, then he might as well go the whole hog and privatise the whole thing and move to a genuine insurance based state system that people can be in or out by virtue of choice.