Vivienne Drews of the Government’s Office of Fair Trading – Maybe It’s Time They Turned Their Attention to the Government Itself?
The Office of Fair Trading has said it is thinking of referring the private healthcare market to the Competition Commission.
In a statement, the OFT said it found three key issues that needed further investigation:
There is a lack of easily comparable information available to patients, GPs or health insurance providers on the quality and costs of private healthcare services;
Whilst in the National health Service there is of course an absolute wealth of information to help people choose which provider.
Except that there isn’t. There is only one provider and no choice at all.
There are only a limited number of significant private healthcare providers and of larger health insurance providers at a national level;
Whereas in the National Health Service there are lots of providers.
Except that there aren’t. The Left go into apoplexy if a private company does anything in the NHS, and as to any concept that there might be multiple privately-run providers from whom people could choose, well, let’s just say that even the most rabid Tories never suggest that.
A number of features of the private healthcare market combine to create significant barriers to new competitors entering and being able to offer private patients greater choice.
Whereas in the National Health Service there are hardly any barriers to new competitors offering greater choice.
Except that there are. Like the fact that there isn’t any choice at all.
The private providers are welcoming the review in public, of course.
“We need much more upfront pricing transparency on what patients are required to pay when they sign up to a private medical insurance policy,” said Dr Andy Jones, of Nuffield Health.
After all, inn the National Health Service, everyone knows what they have to pay. It’s all free!
Except that it’s not. It is funded out of people’s taxes, and nobody has any idea how much they are really paying for the NHS.
“This [report] calls into question some of the agreements between insurers and providers. It calls into question some of the cosy deals.”
Whereas in the National Health Service, there are no cosy deals at all. All those drug companies have completely transparent deals with the NHS that are completely visible to taxpayers. And Hospital Trusts are a model of openness.
Except that they’re not. The NHS is basically chock full of cosy deals done for the benefit of providers.
Meanwhile Dr Natalie-Jane Macdonald, managing director of Bupa Health and Wellbeing, said: “The OFT has recognised that private patients are not always aware of the full costs of their treatment and may need to pay additional unexpected charges over and above their health insurance premiums.
“This shortfall happens when a consultant charges more than health insurers’ monetary limits and is, understandably, of great concern to our customers.”
Whereas when consultants charge lots of money to the NHS, it is of no concern to taxpayers at all. Why should they worry? The NHS is free!
Except that it’s not. We just all have no real idea how much we’re paying for it.
How many people, given the choice between private healthcare or the NHS, would choose the NHS? Even Trades Unions often negotiate private medical insurance deals for their members.
How much choice is there for patients within the NHS? There is a level of choice of GP, although many people don’t even get that choice.
Going beyond that, the choice is limited to whatever hospitals their local PCT (or soon their local GP Consortium) has a deal with. That would be one of those completely transparent deals in the NHS presumably, completely unlike those frightful “cosy deals” in the private sector.
The real scandal in this country is the lack of choice in publically funded healthcare, not the level of choice in the small private healthcare market. Especially when its customers are also forced to pay for the NHS whether they use it or not.