Advantages and Disadvantages of Privatization of Healthcare

There has been considerable interest in the growth of private sectors across nations. The lure of profits, better infrastructure, and performance has made it very prominent over the years. Similarly, privatization of healthcare has been in contention for quite some time.  But is it beneficial as a structure or does it solely work for profits? Let us weigh the advantages and disadvantages of privatizing healthcare.

THE CONCEPT OF HEALTHCARE

Healthcare is the service of providing medical aid for the purpose of maintenance or improvement of health. These services are provided by healthcare professionals who are formally trained. For instance, doctors, surgeons, physicians, nurses, and psychologists are some examples of healthcare professionals or providers. A healthcare system requires well-trained and well-paid professionals, a proper financial mechanism, and good decisions and policies. A good healthcare system significantly contributes to a country’s economy. On the other hand, limitations to healthcare can negatively impact the efficiency and overall outcome of the well-being of people.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global spending on health rose to US $7.8 trillion in 2017. Certainly, the healthcare sector has continued to rapidly expand much faster than the economy.

WHAT DOES PRIVATIZATION MEAN?

Privatization is an act or process of converting a government-run business or industry to the ownership and control of private hands. It could also mean the deregulation of a heavily regulated private industry or company.

There are conflicting views on the efficacy of privatization. On the one hand, with more competition there is an increase in profitability, output and innovation. But on the other hand, there is scope for corruption, concentration of wealth with few individuals, and monopoly among other things.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Privatization of Healthcare

ADVANTAGES OF PRIVATIZATION OF HEALTHCARE

Better Quality of Care

One of the biggest advantages of privatizing healthcare is the quality it offers. Most hospitals are overworked, understaffed, and have limited resources. As a result, a patient’s personal needs could get overlooked. Private healthcare can give personalized care to each patient and offer the right support. Therefore, this enhances a patient’s quality of living. In comparison to public hospitals and healthcare services, private healthcare has better and state-of-the-art medical equipments. Similarly, the doctor-patient ratio is also lower, there is proper diagnosis, and availability of private rooms for privacy. Patients can also avoid long waiting lines. Hence, overall there is no compromise on the quality of care for the patients.

Increased Efficiency

As private healthcare facilities work with the aim of profits, there is guaranteed efficiency in their work. They have a greater incentive to care for their patients and provide the best medical facilities. As a result, they are motivated to increase their performance. State-run healthcare or public healthcare facilities can become bureaucratic and have lesser efficiency as compared to private hospitals.

Hygienic Conditions

Another aspect of increased quality of care through the privatization of healthcare is better hygiene. Unsafe and unhygienic settings can contribute to a significant proportion of diseases. Most patients would avoid places that are unsanitary. Therefore, hygienic conditions at hospitals and healthcare facilities is of paramount importance. With privatization, it is easier to manage the facility and keep them clean. There is more attention to keep the risk of infection a minimum.

More Accountability

Privately run hospitals are accountable to their owners and shareholders. They have to ensure that their aims and needs are fulfilled for the purpose of increasing profits. As a result, there are better facilities and services in the private sector. In comparison, public run hospitals and healthcare facilities are very broadly accountable to the community. Therefore, there is lesser involvement and motivation to meet the needs of the people. The private healthcare sector has exponentially increased, especially in developing countries. In 2013, nearly 87 percent of India’s healthcare was privately funded.

DISADVANTAGES OF PRIVATIZATION OF HEALTHCARE

Expensive

One of the major disadvantages of privatizing healthcare facilities is that it is expensive and not cost-effective. These facilities work based on profits. They are not service driven professionals. Therefore, most people cannot afford their services. This creates a huge disparity in society. Unlike public hospitals where there are subsidies and other free services – private hospitals cost a significant amount of money. Most people cannot cover the cost of treatment unless they have health insurance. One must have private medical insurance cover for easy access to private health care. This is a luxury that only a few people can afford. And even if you have insurance to cover your treatment, most of it covers only part of the total cost of treatment. As a result, one has to pay for the extra expenses. Non-availability of financial aid for healthcare is a major concern in the privatization of healthcare.

Discrimination

Privatization of the healthcare sector can lead to discrimination amongst patients. Their ultimate goal is profit-making. So, private hospitals may discriminate against patients based on their income or the kind of medical coverage they have. Likewise, there have been instances where private hospitals accommodate well-endowed patients on a priority basis. They may also give preference to healthier patients as there is a lesser risk. Since there are no regulatory bodies to keep a check on them, there is a higher scope for such discriminations to take place.

Increase in Corruption

Public healthcare sectors are bound to uphold the highest ethical standards and conduct themselves appropriately in accordance with codes of conduct. However, with private healthcare sectors there is increased scope for corruption as they lack transparency. They control their functionality and so, there is no accountability. Similarly, there is a possibility of exploitation of customers as well as clients. Even though there are certain regulations in place to govern them, there can be physical or financial exploitation of the patients without their knowledge or consent. Doctors working in these facilities are also prone to exploitation with unrealistic working hours and unregulated salary structures.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Privatization of Healthcare

Profit-Driven

Private sectors work only with the intention of maximizing profits. They cater to those individuals who are willing to pay the most. That is to say that they don’t work for the needs of the majority. This is detrimental as healthcare is a service that needs to be extended to every class of the society. Also, to increase profits there is a possibility of cutting corners on the quality of the service provided with cheaper types of equipment and lesser qualified professionals. But in times of crisis like the current global coronavirus pandemic, there should be more emphasis on better healthcare facilities instead of solely focusing on profit.

In conclusion, the privatization of healthcare has its pros and cons. It will be successful only if the structure in which it is set is properly executed. So, there must be strict regulations in place for the better implementation of healthcare policies.

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Pros and Cons of Privatization of Healthcare

PROS

CONS

Better Quality of Care

Expensive

Increased Efficiency

Discrimination

Hygienic Conditions

Increase in Corruption

More Accountability

Profit-Driven