Daniel Martin writes in the Daily Mail:
Britons could have to carry an â€˜entitlement cardâ€™ to access free NHS care as part of a crackdown on health tourists, it emerged yesterday.
David Cameron is considering plans to restrict free healthcare for immigrants to those who have lived here for more than a year, amid fears the cash-strapped NHS has become the â€˜Global Health Serviceâ€™.
Reforms under discussion could mean immigrants having to wait six months or even a year before being granted habitual residency and therefore hospital care.
But MPs say the scheme can only work if those entitled to free care can prove it. This would involve them presenting a card at the point of treatment.
However, the idea could spark civil liberty concerns akin to the opposition to Labourâ€™s plans to impose an identity card.
Sarah Coles, writing on the AOL web site, reminds us that Labour originally branded their ID card scheme as “Entitlemnet Cards:
David Blunkett said in 2003 the cards would ensure “people don’t work if they are not entitled to work, they don’t draw on services which are free in this country, including health, unless they are entitled to”.
So will this mean an ID card via the back door?
There are plenty of obstacles to overcome first. One of the most significant is the fact that the European Commission has already made it clear that it will oppose plans to restrict benefits to new immigrants, so plans to restrict free healthcare will go down just as badly. The UK would have to get this past the EC first.
Then there are the civil liberties groups that made life so tough for Labour when they wanted to introduce ID cards – they’re unlikely to go down without a fight.
Liberty said at the time there were any number of reasons not to have a card, not least because they intrude on privacy and pose a security risk because of the government’s poor record on data security.
The campaigns chimed with a large number who were concerned about the cards. In 2008 some 25% of people were strongly opposed to their introduction.
It leaves the government in a tricky position. They’ve executed some astonishing u-turns in their time, but this may just prove to be a step too far.