The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

November 24, 2015 05:30 ET

The Fraser Institute: Despite Common Misperceptions, For-Profit Health Care Compatible With Universal Health Care

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Nov. 24, 2015) - Based on the experiences of other countries, for-profit hospitals and insurers are compatible with universal health care, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

"Contrary to the way they are often perceived in Canada, for-profit hospitals and insurers are a part of high-performing universal health-care systems in other countries," said Bacchus Barua, Fraser Institute senior economist and co-author of For-profit Hospitals and Insurers in Universal Health-Care Countries.

The study analyzes the universal health-care systems of six countries-Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

For example, Australia relies heavily on a for-profit private health-care sector for both health insurance and delivery of medical services including 477 for-profit hospitals.

Of course, the proliferation and extent of services offered by for-profit hospitals and insurers varies by country. For example, in 2012 approximately 42 per cent of the 3,229 hospitals in Germany were for-profit institutions. Similarly, more than half of hospitals in Switzerland, and about 40 per cent of hospitals in France, are for-profit institutions. Even in Sweden, three of the country's 83 hospitals are private for-profit hospitals including a large acute-care facility.

On the insurance front, again, the level of private involvement varies from country to country.

For example, residents of the Netherlands must purchase universal health insurance for core health-care services from a private insurer of their choice, including for-profit companies. In Germany, for-profit companies compete to offer a private substitute for public health-care insurance. On the other hand, in France and Switzerland, private for-profit insurers play a supporting role, though for-profit companies in Switzerland may compete to offer the primary health-care insurance package on a not-for-profit basis.

"Clearly, based on the examples of other industrialized countries, private for-profit hospitals and health insurers are compatible with universal health care," Barua said.

"Private for-profit hospitals and insurers support some of the best universal access health-care systems in the developed world-systems superior to Canada's in timeliness, accessibility, and outcomes despite similar or lower health expenditures," said Nadeem Esmail, Fraser Institute senior fellow and co-author of the study.

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

Contact Information

  • For interviews with Mr. Esmail and Mr. Barua,
    please contact: Aanand Radia, Media Relations Specialist
    Fraser Institute
    (416) 363-6575 ext. 238