Unlike the United States, Great Britain has utilized socialized healthcare for years. Supporters claim one of the main reasons for implementing UK’s socialized healthcare was to battle rising healthcare costs.
But as Americans are about to discover under similar circumstances with Obamacare, socialized forms of healthcare may attempt to exert more control over its insured population.
For example, the UK’s Westminster Council has proposed that overweight or unhealthy people who refuse to attend exercise sessions could have their benefits slashed.
According to the BBC, the measures are contained in a report entitled A Dose of Localism: The Role of Council in Public Health, in a link-up between Westminster Council and the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).
Under the proposals, overweight benefit claimants could have their money docked if they refuse exercise regimes prescribed by doctors.
Smart cards would be brought in to monitor the use of leisure centers, meaning local authorities could reduce welfare payments for those who fail to follow their GP’s advice.
Resident, housing and council tax benefit payments “could be varied to reward or incentivise residents”, the report said.
It claims “early intervention techniques” could help save more lives and money.
These include linking welfare payments to healthy lifestyles and rewarding those who take responsibility for their own health, the report’s authors claim.
Not everyone in the UK medical community agrees with the proposal. British Medical Association GP committee chairman Dr Buckman, a GP in north London, called the proposals “some of the silliest things I’ve heard in a long time”.
“When I was first told about this I thought it was a joke,” he said.
He added: “The best way [councils] can intervene is to stop restaurants and fast-food chains providing the kind of food that make people put on weight, and interfere with the way foods are sold in shops.”
Similar cries for government intervention in the private sector to fight obesity have been echoed by New York’s Mayor Bloomberg.
In the past, Bloomberg demanded food manufacturers and restaurants cut salt, prohibit trans fats in New York restaurant food, and he proposed an amendment to the city’s health code to prohibit large sugared drinks at delis, fast-food franchises, restaurants, movie theaters, mobile food carts, and even sports arenas.
It would be fairer to use the money to support people rather than to penalize people, said Susannah Gilbert, spokeswoman for Big Matters, an obesity support organization.
“Any plans for health should be holistic,” she added. “Some people have emotional issues to do with food. A fast-food generation need support in the long term.”
But Jonathan Carr-West, acting chief executive of the LGiU, said the proposals offered “a win-win” solution.
He said the proposals were about “finding innovative ways to both improve people’s lives so they don’t suffer from these conditions, while also saving money for the public purse. We have to look at ways of managing demand, of helping people not to need such expensive health interventions,” he said.
Westminster council leader Philippa Roe said: “This report contains exactly the sort of bright, forward-thinking and radical ideas that need to be looked at.
“The potential improvements to the nation’s health and to the public purse could be significant.”
But the BBC notes the change to local authority control over public health has led many councils to voice concerns about how much money they will get and the formula that central government will use to allocate funding.