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Benenden Health voices concern on new Free Trade Agreement with the United States

7th July 2014

Negotiations for the trade agreement between the EU and the US, best known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), have continued since June 2013. The umbrella organisation for health mutuals and health insurance funds (AIM), (of which Benenden Health is a member), warns that the agreement could have a major impact on many sectors including health.

Although it is hoped by various stakeholders that the TTIP will generate growth, fears exist that the inclusion of health and social services in the agreement could endanger the roots of our health system.

AIM’s position is that this trade agreement would increase corporate involvement in policy making and undermine individual EU Member states’ influence on health and social services policy. All European mutual and national health authorities warn against granting the right to companies to sue EU governments for restrictions on their trade practices through regulations concerning major health issues at risk of disease such as tobacco, alcohol, food, drug patents and environmental pollution.

These threats on the ability of states to influence policy - in particular for regulation of the health sector - can be avoided, say AIM: their members ask for health and social services to be clearly and unambiguously defined and excluded from the scope of free trade agreements. Additionally mutuals have joined their voices to MEPs, academia and Non-Government Organisations in asking for more transparency and information on the negotiations. Benenden Health has responded to a European Consultation relating to the topic of TTIP, last week to voice its concerns.

Lawrence Christensen, Group Marketing Director at Benenden Health, said: ‘As a mutual, Benenden Health believes in the fundamental principle of the UK's National Health Service that healthcare should be accessible for all. We put this into practice ourselves by our core product being available to everyone regardless of pre-existing health conditions or age

This principle should not be undermined at EU level by allowing excessive market forces-led privatisation of the National Health Service, which could be an outcome of this free trade agreement. We are very reluctant to see a move towards the American healthcare system where health takes a backseat to profit.

Benenden Health welcome a proper debate on funding systems for the NHS as, through our support of a recent ResPublica report, we support the potential for mutuals to play a role in healthcare funding and maintaining accessibility of healthcare for all.'

Five rounds of negotiations have already taken place and EU officials talk of the deal possibly being concluded before the end of 2015. Before the agreement is concluded, the European Parliament, all EU governments and national Parliaments as well as the US Congress will have to approve the final agreement between the two commercial partners.

To read the AIM Position Paper and learn more about mutuals’ views on TTIP, you can visit AIM’s website.

About the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP)

The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

The main aims of the partnership are to increase trade and investment between the US and the EU primarily by reducing non-tariff barriers such as diverging standards. Negotiations started officially in June 2013 and a 6th round of negotiations will take place mid-July.

To learn more about TTIP, you can read the Note of the House of Commons.

 

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