Monday, December 24, 2012

Private Health Care in Sweden

The Guardian reports on, "Private healthcare: the lessons from Sweden" (12/18/2012).

A couple of excerpts:
During an hour-long presentation to the Guardian, St Göran's chief executive, Britta Wallgren, says the 310-bed hospital, serving 430,000 people, outperforms state-owned rivals inside and outside the country.

She says emergency patients see a doctor within half an hour, compared with A&E waits of up to four hours in the NHS. "We took an A&E department that dealt with 35,000 patients a year and now treats 75,000," Wallgren says. "As admissions grow and we have an increasingly elderly population so must our performance improve."

Capio stresses that St Göran has low levels of hospital-acquired infections, and patient surveys record high levels of public satisfaction. It has also produced year-on-year productivity gains – something the state cannot match. Thomas Berglund, Capio's president, says the "profit motive works in healthcare" and companies run on "capitalism, not altruism".
One patient who opposed the private sector used it nonetheless:
"I am one of those Swedes who do not agree that private hospitals should exist," says Christina Rigert, 62, who used to work as an administrator in the hospital but resigned "on principle" when it was privatised a decade ago.

Now back as a patient after gastric band surgery, she says: "The experience was very good. I had no complaints. There's less waiting than other hospitals. I still do not think there should be private hospitals in Sweden but it's happening."
Note that she attacked it, even while benefiting from it.

The system is not perfect.  But it is an encouraging step in the right direction for Sweden.

Now there is an potential reverse argument some might make along the lines of, "Limited government advocates don't think government program X should exist, but they still take advantage of that service while opposing it.  So they're also being hypocritical!" (For instance, roads, schools, libraries, Post Office, Social Security, etc.)

But one key distinction is that these government programs typically use force "crowd out" (either directly or indirectly) the private options, thus leaving ordinary citizens with limited or no choice except to use the government option.

In contrast, introducing private health options into a socialist system adds choice rather than reducing it. And if over time the private choices "crowd out" the government option, I consider that a feature not a bug.

(Read the full text of "Private healthcare: the lessons from Sweden".  H/T: Dr. Matthew Bowdish.)