The US health disaster spreads to the UK, Canada and Australia
Privatisation of healthcare is racing ahead in Australia, Canada and the UK. In Australia, one-third of all hospital beds are now private. In the UK, 7 billion pounds worth of new healthcare contracts have been opened to private bidding. In 2011, the UK National Health Service increased its private spending by 10%. NHS hospitals can now use up to 49% of their beds for private patients. Canada is now turning to privatisation to deal with waiting times. But no one has learned from the USA’s bitter lessons.
Private hospitals do not offer whole-of-treatment quotes. Private patients can easily get half a dozen different bills for one surgery alone. Assessing the gap between private insurance rebates and the array of different bills and charges is impossible. Private patients simply cannot shop around to get the best prices, so there is no market driver to force costs down and make private hospitals competitive. Some private patients are experiencing enormous and unexpected out of pocket costs, even with insurance. Private cancer treatments costing a minimum of $10,000 in out of pocket costs are being reported in the mainstream media.
Over servicing of some private patients, is also being documented. Doctors can feel pressured to give patients ‘something tangible in return for their large insurance premiums’. Complex financial deals between hospitals and pathology clinics can leave the door open to unnecessary test and treatments rather than providing good solid healthcare.
Problems caused by a lack of suitably qualified medical staff in some private hospitals is also being raised. Private hospitals have been criticised for providing overpriced and substandard care. In Australia, a cocaine-addicted neurosurgeon was allowed to operate freely on private patients while the public hospital nearby had banned him because of his low clinical standards. Lack of medical attention 24 hours a day in private hospitals can leave patients at risk of missing out on vital medical attention. Fewer qualified and permanent nursing staff mean higher rates of hospital errors. Lack of adequate allied health services, discharge planning and outpatient care, can leave private patients bouncing back to emergency departments, or frequenting their GP.
Lack of transparency in private hospitals is an ongoing complaint raised in the media. Some doctors are complaining about the gaps in private hospitals reporting statistics. Private health insurers are well aware of the problems in many private hospitals, due to their extensive data collection. Many private patients are giving negative feedback about their care. In Australia, no private hospital is legally obligated to supply data on hospital errors to the National Health Performance Authority. The consumer orientated MyHospitals website contains gaps on private hospital statistics.
Claims are surfacing that health bureaucrats are failing to properly investigate claims of bad care by private hospitals. So why do Western politicians persist in ignoring the warnings about private health care? Follow the money, and you may find some answers. Health care is one of the most profitable industries in the western world. “One in very six dollars in the Unites States flows through the health system”. Over 70% of professional lobbyists in the USA represent the health industries. In Australia, health is the largest single employer. This is a monster industry. There are billions of dollars involved in pathology testing, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. And as the urban dictionary explains, the phrase ‘Money talks, bullshit walks’ refers to talk being cheap, while money will persuade people to do as you like.
Australians should think carefully about who they vote for at the next federal election. Who is prepared to demand lower prices and higher quality from this troubled industry?
Paying till it hurts – Facebook page
Patients costs skyrocket, specialists income soars – New York Times 2014
In need of a new hip but priced out of the US – New York Times 2013
Think the ER is expensive? Look how much it cost to get there – New York Times
The 2.7 trillion medical bill – New York Time 2013
Is this a hospital or a hotel – New York Times 2013
The health care waiting game – New York Times 2014
Medicines top earners are not the MD’s. – New York Times 2014
Rapid price increase for some generic drugs – New York Times 2014
After surgery, suprise $117,000 medical bill – New York Times 2014
Why Americans are drowning in medical debt – The Atlantic
Why is the United States so sick? – New Scientist 2013
The secret committee behind our soaring health care costs – Politico magazine 2014
What makes the US health system so expensive? The Incidental Economist 2010
Explaining high health care spending in the United States – The Commonwealth Fund
Our right to know about private health firms – The Guardian 2013
This latest cure for the NHS could really kill the patient – The Guardian 2013
NHS stops referring patients to private hospitals after damming report – The Guardian 2013
The good times are over for private hospitals – The Guardian 2013
Private hospitals to face rip off probe – The Daily Mail 2012
The only NHS hospital run by private firm delivers poor care – The Independent 2015
It’s not just mid Staffordshire. The Guardian 2013
Private hospitals must provide more safety data. BBC 2014.
Inside Canada’s health care privatisation movement – Vancouver Observer 2012
Babies born in private hospitals more likely to have health problems – The Guardian 2014
NHS privatisation keeps on failing patients – The Guardian 2014
Caesarean rates rise in Perth Hospitals – ABC 2013
Queensland private hospitals urged to join audit of deaths – Courier Mail 2012
Varying mortality rates in private hospitals data – The Australian 2011
Private hospitals don’t deliver say patients – News.com 2009
Reducing over use and misuse – Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Unaccountable book trailer – posted by Transparent Medicine
Escape Fire –The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare Official Trailer – movie