The flexibility of the for-profit healthcare model is generally considered one of its most significant advantages. Barr (2016) highlights the competitiveness of the for-profit environment and how it may force members to improve care efficiency and quality. However, there are also significant ethical issues that are associated with the model. As Holtz (2016) explains, for-profit hospitals may be creating barriers to care through their pricing, disadvantaging lower-income patients. These patients would not be treated appropriately, lowering the overall quality of the care provided by the model.
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By contrast, non-profit healthcare is theoretically intended to provide treatments equitably, taking the money that would otherwise go to shareholders and using it to provide superior care. As a result, these hospitals are treated by law as charities, which makes them tax-exempt and offers additional resources. However, the model is also affected by some issues, which are associated with the difference between insured and uninsured patients. As Hammaker et al. (2016) state, with the rising private health insurance costs and falling coverage, underinsurance is spreading, and non-profit hospitals are eliminating services to the uninsured because they cannot afford them. As a result, access to care for low-income populations suffers under this model, as well.
For-profit hospitals may be able to resolve this issue by offering lower-priced treatments to patients that need them. Additionally, as businesses, they are subject to strict oversight by various agencies that forces them to be transparent. Hammaker et al. (2016) highlight cases where tax-exempt non-profit hospitals would charge uninsured patients considerably more than the other category. The practice is both unethical and illegal, but sometimes necessary to retain low costs for insured patients. Overall, when practical implications are considered, both models appear to have the same ethical issues by barring low-income populations from care, but the for-profit model has the advantage of accountability.
- Barr, D. A. (2016). Introduction to US health policy: The organization, financing, and delivery of health care in America (4th ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Hammaker, D. K., Knadig, T. M., & Tomlinson, S. J. (2016). Health care ethics and the law. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
- Holtz, K. (ed.). (2016). Global health care: Issues and policies. Jones & Bartlett Learning.