The Real Death Panel: For-Profit Healthcare
With great emotion and hyperbole, supporters of private healthcare have passionately advocated that a not-for-profit healthcare system would decrease the quality of care patients receive and create an environment where healthcare professionals would not have adequate tools and materials. But, as is usually the case with sensationalist arguments, an objective view of the facts quickly dismantles these claims. Gallup polls from as early as 2002 have repeatedly shown that employees of for-profit hospitals tend to score much lower in having access to adequate materials they need to perform their jobs well, and tend to have less pride in their work than their not-for-profit counterparts. In light of these findings, how could pro-privatized healthcare advocates continue to claim that the ‘business as usual’ approach to American healthcare is still best? Unfortunately for them, the facts and figures of the situation suggest otherwise.
It’s not an opinion, but a fact that Americans pay more for their healthcare than any other industrialized nation in the world. Pro-private healthcare advocates would argue that this gives us an advantage in quality of care over other systems where taxpayers cover healthcare costs, but is this really the case? In a recent study by the University of Maryland, patients of for-profit hospitals were consistently discharged prematurely, even if they were still ill or recovering from surgical procedures. Professor Bruce Golden, who published the report, stated that doctors working in privately owned hospitals are pressured into performing as many procedures as possible in order to generate more profit. This healthcare model, Golden says, leaves too many full beds and hospitals constantly having to ‘make room’ for new procedures to take place (the procedure taking precedence over the patient.)
Another argument private health care advocates have repeatedly stressed is that a not-for-profit healthcare system would be highly inefficient, leading to higher costs of maintenance and higher percentages of patient deaths. The trouble with this claim is that it would be 100% correct if it were referring to our existing healthcare system according to the evidence. A recent study conducted by PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) found that for-profit hospitals, on average, cost 19% more to maintain and have a 2% higher patient death ratio than public or not-for-profit hospitals. Deaths related to negligence were also reported as being far more frequent in privately owned hospitals.
What does all this mean at the end of the day? The answer is simple: For-profit healthcare is just a business, and like any other business, the profit incentives take priority over all else, including patient care. A system that abandons patients in order to post higher earning quarterlies is not a system that holds the integrity necessary to care for people who are ill or need emergency care, and needs immediate and permanent reform.
Devereaux Mortality Study