Tories' care home costs plan


Cameron's 'thoughtful revolution' in elderly care needs more thought about principle.

The latest fusillade in the Conservatives' 'thoughtful revolution', which Philip Salter reported on here, looks – well, completely devoid of any thought at all.

In fact, this latest vote-winning wheeze shows how devoid of principle or imagination the Conservatives have become. (Not that this is much of a criticism, since all parts of the political class are naturally more interested in votes than in either of those.) Indeed, it looks like a quick-fix plan to match Gordon Brown's costly promises on the same subject

The plan is that if people pay the £8,000 at retirement, then the government will give them free long-term care when they need it. It is absolutely extraordinary. It means that the Conservatives – the Conservatives – are proposing a new form of national insurance. An extension of the Welfare State. It means that a Conservative – a Conservative – government would crowd out private insurers who might just be able to do that sort of a job better and cheaper than Whitehall bureaucrats. (Admit it, that has been known.)

If anyone in the Eton-Islington Axis was actually moved by principle rather than PR, they'd have consulted two decades' worth of think-tank reports pointing out that things like long-term care – and healthcare in general – are best provided through a partnership between individuals, insurance, and the state. The deal should be that if you fund or insure yourself for a reasonable period (say two years) of long-term care, then yes, the state will pick up the tab for the rest – since it's those unpredictably long stays that give insurers the collywobbles. It certainly shouldn't be that the state insures everything.

As an insurance company, the state sucks. It should focus on its proper role – welfare needs and the provision of things people can't save or insure for – not advancing into new areas that never occurred to Aneurin Bevan. Now that would be a thoughtful revolution.

Dr Butler's book The Rotten State of Britain is now in paperback.