Health inequalities: private healthcare providers versus state healthcare providers


(Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Julian Pascal Beier (24), a second-year medical student at the Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

With an ageing society and increasing prosperity – especially in Europe -, the demand for medical services, and above all for better medical services, is also increasing. According to the principle of market equilibrium of Neoclassical Economics and General Equilibrium Theory, the increase in this demand must inevitably lead to an increase in supply – particularly fast this happens through private health service providers who enter the market and seek to satisfy the demand.

If the economic theories mentioned were perfect as well, this article would already end here. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Rather it appears that the free market in health services does not lead to all people being well cared for, but rather to some individuals being oversupplied and many being undersupplied.

Ultimately, providers can use their customers’ lack of knowledge and their desire for the best medical care – although objectively this “best care” will probably be rare – to offer their services at a high price or overpriced. The public at large falls by the wayside.

I am convinced, however, that we are making it too easy for ourselves if we blame the private sector for the misery. Of course, it is not nice to make money out of people’s plight and their need for medical care – but that is what businesses do.

It is the state’ s primordial task to intervene in the event of market failure and, for example, to ensure that the population receives good and equal health care. Less injustice through more public health!

Or as Karl Lauterbach, German Social Democratic health politician and Adjunct Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, said: “Everyone must be treated as medically necessary – not as insured or where he or she lives.”

About the author

Julian Pascal Beier (24) is a second-year medical student at the Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany. He holds the office of National Officer on Health Policy of the German Medical Students’ Association (bvmd-Germany), which is a member association of the IFMSA. In addition to health policy, where he is particularly interested in Digital Health, he is also involved at the national level in the ongoing development of medical studies and as an expert for the accreditation of study programmes according to the European Bologna criteria.

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