Private vs Public Healthcare: is There a Difference?

Private vs Public Healthcare: is There a Difference?

Healthcare is a universal human right, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be profited from. There are two types of healthcare: public and private. There are fierce debates about whether healthcare should be free, but even in countries where patients do not need to pay, private hospitals still exist.

This leads to the question: is there really a difference between public and private healthcare, and which is better?

What is Public Healthcare?

Firstly, let’s look at the definition of public healthcare. The term public healthcare refers to hospitals and healthcare in general that is funded by the state. Essentially, the government pays for everyone’s medical care, most often through taxation. Public healthcare means citizens of the state do not need to pay for their treatment at the point of access.

There are usually rules about who can access the service when it comes to foreigners, but sometimes there are initiatives in place, such as the EHIC card which allows people in the European Economic Area, Switzerland, and the UK to receive medical care either for free or for a reduced rate whilst travelling between member states.

What is Private Healthcare?

Next, let’s look at what private healthcare is. In a nutshell, private healthcare is healthcare that is provided by a sole person or business not affiliated to the government. Healthcare at private hospitals is not free and must be paid for by the patient, either out of pocket or through insurance.

Occasionally, private hospitals and clinics do treat public patients, but they have to have an agreement in place and referrals need to be made.

Is there a Difference in Treatment?

One of the biggest questions people have about public and private healthcare is whether there’s a difference between the level of treatment offered. In general, public healthcare providers will offer comprehensive care and are capable of doing incredible, life-saving surgery. That being said, new technology isn’t always implemented quickly into public hospitals, and patients aren’t always put forwards for clinical trials because of the level of negotiation required to acquire the funding.

In contrast, private hospitals are funded by businesses rather than the government, meaning there’s typically less of a focus on budgets. This has a major benefit in the sense that newer technology is usually available far quicker, as are experimental treatments.

A good example is in the form of cancer treatment. Public hospitals may offer standard chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, but private cancer hospitals might also offer newer treatments like proton beam therapy in addition to the more traditional solutions.

It is important to note that best practices are implemented in public hospitals and healthcare settings, but funding is more of a concern which can sometimes restrict the implementation of treatments that are up and coming.

Which is Better?

The question on everyone’s lips is whether public or private healthcare is better. In short, neither is distinctively better. Both have their pros and cons. Public healthcare is accessible to everyone regardless of income or social status, and treatment is given without the patient having to worry about whether or not they can afford it.

On the other hand, private healthcare is accessible to only those who pay for it. Sometimes, employers cover the cost of private healthcare for their employees, but most of the time, people fund it through paying for private healthcare insurance.

Both are great options and provide excellent healthcare and treatment, but if you have the money to and want to have access to the very latest technology and medicine without all the red tape, private healthcare is a good option.