A Proposal for National Insurance

by Elias Blum

I’d like to go from the negative, critical and oppositional to the positive, constructive and programmatic. The problem with “Tories bad, fracking bad, benefits sanction bad, war bad, repealing human rights act bad, corrupt corporate oligarchy bad” etc etc is that it always puts one on the back foot. It leaves the agenda to be set by the very forces we seek to oppose. I’d like to think about a workable, practical set of specific policies that could make a real positive difference to the lives of ordinary people, and especially to the poor and vulnerable in our society.

On top of my list would be (for discussion and consideration) universal income protection insurance – so that if you are sick, disabled, unemployed, or unable to work, you can claim an insurance pay-out that will maintain a sufficient and decent quality of life. This could be mandated and organised by the state, so that there is universal coverage and the maximum amount of risk-sharing, but privately funded through compulsory contributions by employee and employers.

This might protect, say, 80% of the average of the last two years’ income (within certain maximum and minimum parameters) for an initial period of three months, dropping to say 60% for the next nine months. In case of permanent illness or incapacity a rate equivalent to the medium income would be paid out. These figures are merely illustrative of the general principle.

The advantage of this scheme is that it would give ordinary people some real economic security against the risks and hazards of life, at a rate that makes it worthwhile even for middle class people with relatively decent professional salaries. It would be without stigma, too, because it wouldn’t be a ‘benefit’ or a ‘dole’; those who claim it wouldn’t be ‘scroungers’ – they would be recipients of an insurance pay out based on previous contributions. No questions, no registration, no pointless meetings.

You could even call it ‘National Insurance’.

I’m sure this would have been a radical – but achievable – idea in 1911. Is it still so in 2015?



(Image from Wikipedia).