The Curmudgeon


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Healthy Competition

We are all aware, because right-wing ideologues and other reliable sources have hinted at it now and then, that the private sector is much more efficient than the state sector at providing proper healthcare. This is because the private sector has competition, unlike the National Health Service which enjoys an unfair advantage because of people like Twizzler Lansley who are obsessed with saving it. Private healthcare companies are compelled by their competition to behave honestly and fairly towards their customers, because to behave otherwise would be inefficient. A private healthcare company which did not fully inform its customers about the costs of their treatment, for example, or which cooked up a cosy arrangement to steer consultants to a particular facility, would labour much and suffer mightily before finally falling prey to the cleansing potency of market forces. Presumably this explains why the Office of Fair Trading, a notorious appendage of Big Government, is threatening the health profiteering community with referral to the Competition Commission.

As with the energy business, a small number of providers have eaten or otherwise neutralised almost everybody else, and market forces have somehow failed to get around to compensating for the fact. Hence, the OFT has found that health insurance policy holders are not being properly informed about the fees they will have to pay, and some companies have resorted to bribing consultants in order that their decisions about where patients should undergo treatment may be taken with due surgical precision. As so often in such cases, at least one member of the health profiteering community has been crying out for more competition for some time. The chief executive of BMI Healthcare righteously regurgitated some corporate-speak about "cost-effective outcomes" (which under the NHS would be little more than mere treatments); but the managing director of Bupa has "welcomed" the OFT's findings, doubtless in much the same teeth-clenched spirit as a Murdoch minion being happy to testify about hacking, or Lord Bell being overjoyed at his recent chance to clear the air about political lobbying. It is reassuring to see how jolly pleased the private sector always is when Big Government catches on at last.


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