When Worlds Collide….Brits Abolish Hospital’s Private Payer Limits in Order to Cover NHS Shortfall

Posted on August 2, 2010

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We are living in strange times indeed.  

Facing massive shortfalls for funding their government health care system (the National Health Services program) , the Brits are now going after private payers to make up the difference.  Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said they will remove the cap on income to hospitals from private payers which had previously been set at 2%. 

The story is from the UK Guardian:

Elite NHS foundation trusts are gearing up to lure private patients from home and abroad as health budgets are squeezed – a decision made possible after health secretary Andrew Lansley said he would abolish the cap limiting the proportion of total income hospitals can earn from the paying sick, research by the Guardian has shown.

With a £20bn black hole opening up in NHS budgets, a group of top performing trusts are seeking to profit from paying patients and use the money to fund public healthcare in Britain. The Guardian contacted the top 10 NHS trusts in terms of private income after the health secretary proposed new freedoms and discovered proposals to build new wings and wards to cater for private patients, set up hospitals abroad and entice medical tourists with airport-to-hospital bed services.

Of course, many are not happy about the change:

Critics say that because Lansley has abolished targets to reduce waiting times and is encouraging private care, patients will be back to a system where those with cash can jump ahead of those in need.

And this:

Labour says the policies give “a green light to let market forces run riot through the NHS”. Andrew Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said there was “a dangerous combination of lifting the cap on treating private patients and scrapping national waiting time standards,” adding: “With no limit on the amount hospitals can earn from seeing private patients, NHS patients can be made to wait. And as waits grow, people will be forced to consider paying for their care. It’s the same old Tory NHS choice – wait longer or pay to go private.”

But, as unhappy as NHS supporters are about the private payer cap being lifted, it still does not change the fact that their government-run health care system is running in the red and something must be done to balance its books.  As the old adage goes, “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” and neither do hip replacements.