Thursday, July 14, 2005

Healthcare Is Not A Commodity

I don't have time now to go into it, but read this excellent article by John Lister, which argues correctly that the global trend in privatization of healthcare is driven not by 'efficiency' or 'cost-cutting' but by neoliberal ideology:
Indeed far from offering economies or efficiencies, many of the new market-style reforms serve to increase costs both to government and to individual service users, and have a questionable impact on overall efficiency of healthcare systems.

Among the most common of these measures are:

-Decentralisation and privatisation.
-The separation of purchaser from provider.
-The use of contracts to allocate resources and monitor service provision.
-Increased provider autonomy (for example, the creation of foundation trusts) and the cultivation of an “entrepreneurial” approach.
-The purchase of publicly funded services from private sector providers.
-New systems for the payment of healthcare providers.
-The creation of competition between providers.
-The use of private sector capital (for example, through the Private Finance Initiative or Public Private Partnerships).
-A focus on “patient choice” and consumerism in place of planning and accountability.
Nowhere is there any evidence that market-style reforms can improve efficiency, cut costs, or do anything but compound existing inequalities in access to healthcare.
Healthcare as a for-profit industry is precisely morally equivalent to war profiteering: it exploits human suffering for corporate and individual gain. The exigencies of profit maximization are structurally antithetical to the concerns of optimal care. This condition is not reformable by regulation and government oversight, let alone by rampant privatization and 'increased provider autonomy'; it is inherent vice.

Left to itself, by definition, capitalist healthcare will seek at every turn to maximize profits at the expense of patient care. This is unacceptable. We must oppose the ongoing privatization of our healthcare; our lives literally depend on it.

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