The Economics of Heathcare in the Developing World

On March 6, GlobeMed cohosted a student debate about private versus public healthcare. Read on for member Swara Salih’s coverage of the evening.viewer

In an open floor debate with Delta GDP, a student-run group with a focus on Economic Development, attendees discussed the merits and detriments of public and private health care systems, and attempted to determine which might be better for developing nations.  While most present agreed that access to healthcare was an inalienable right, opinions dissented in the group of how best to achieve that access.

We compared case studies of public healthcare administration in Europe and the United States.  While the former has universal coverage, the latter has its focus primarily through social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, each of which targets either the elderly or impoverished portions of society.  Some questioned whether these systems waste time and resources, as patients could go to doctors for any superfluous reason, whether is a migraine or a small cut on the arm.  They reasoned that a private system would ensure that members of society would see doctors for specific ailments that demanded immediate attention.  Patients and doctors could budget their time and resources in such a system to distributed efficient healthcare.

However, others brought up the point that a private-based system could see varying levels of care from doctors, who could be motivated primarily by compensation for their services, and not by the goal of having every member of society receiving proper treatment for life-threatening ailments.  In a private system, a more affluent patient could receive access to basic healthcare that a poorer member of society would not have.  A public system would see doctors paid a sufficient amount to treat all income levels.  Propagators of this view reasoned that health often fluctuates, especially in developing nations where there can be scarce access to medicine and sanitation, and a lack of understanding of how to prevent sickness.  A public system might then be able to solve some of these issues, as individuals in developing nations would not have the funds to compensate doctors.

Each side made thought-provoking and integral points, all of which push us towards finding a collaborative solution towards spreading healthcare to the developing world.

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