Thursday, April 29, 2004

Isn't this what the health system is for?

So, the government has a plan to get people off the sickness and invalid's benefits by paying for them to have operations. This isn't such a bad idea on economic grounds - if an operation substantially improves work chances, then it may be a net saving to the government's welfare bill - and its almost certainly better from the beneficiary's perspective (after all, who likes being sick?). At the same time, though, isn't this what the health system is for? Shouldn't we be asking why sickness beneficiaries aren't getting proper medical care in the first place?

Of course, we already know the answer to that question: underfunding. It's something that those complaining about "queue-jumpers" don't get: contrary to Lynda Scott's claims, there is spare capacity in the health system. The problem is that the government doesn't fund enough operations, not that we don't have the operating theatres and staff and tools to do them. What this scheme does is fund extra operations by the backdoor.

However, that doesn't mean its a great thing. What pisses me off about this is that it's not about patient need or quality of life - it's about saving the government money. And that is gettig things arse-backwards as far as I'm concerned. We shouldn't be funding medical procedures for sickness beneficiaries through the social welfare budget; we should funding the health system properly so that they're not on the sickness benefit in the first place.