Working for better health care in New Zealand

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) is the professional association and union uniting doctors and dentists in New Zealand.

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Private health care inferior and expensive

27 June 2019 Media Release - ASMS

Private health systems are more expensive and less efficient, and have poorer patient outcomes, says Professor Martin McKee, keynote speaker at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists 30th anniversary conference.

Professor McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is one of the world’s leading researchers on the operation of health care systems in times of economic austerity.

The theme of today’s conference is: Why a public health service is worth fighting for.

The United Kingdom and New Zealand had a shared experience of privatising public services, and it had not gone well.

“You would think that, given our shared experience of failed market reforms, we would have learned something. But in both our countries there are still voices calling for more privatisation in the belief that, if we try often enough, we will eventually get it right,” Professor McKee says.

He likens the continuing advocacy for privatisation to the belief that if communism was implemented properly it would be a success.

While most people think of the United States as having a private health system, the Government pays about half of the total health bill through the Medicare and Medicaid programmes. Professor McKee says this allows the private system to focus on younger, healthier, and more profitable patients.

It’s argued the private system can assist the public system by purchasing private care for public patients, but Professor McKee says that ignores one of the big constraints in health care systems, the availability of trained staff. Deals with the private sector can also expose taxpayers to litigation.

Evidence showed that health outcomes were worse in for-profit hospitals compared with not-for-profit and public hospitals.