Finnish healthcare reform may include illegal State Aid

It appears that the Finnish government is either inadvertently or deliberately setting itself up for being challenged by the EU when privatising large parts of the public healthcare sector. 

Private companies have been allowed, again, inadvertently or deliberately, to replace public healthcare centres without careful planning. 

This appears to be a Trojan Horse for the EU to claim illegal state aid because it is said that public healthcare centres have a competitive advantage because they cannot go bankrupt like private healthcare centres!

The Finnish Healthcare reform includes “freedom of choice” elements that allow the private sector companies to run the most profitable parts of public healthcare. The private sector has been fast to grab wealthier regions where it is statistically easier to discover larger numbers of wealthier folk who are less vulnerable to common infections and diseases, leaving less well-off areas for public services, with fewer doctors and healthcare workers and with more than enough patients to deal with.

The privatisation of public healthcare has been one of the key policies of the Conservative Party (Kokoomus) for years because they believe that there should be competition with the public sector and because doctors, who are generally Conservative Party supporters earn much more money both as doctors workers and owners of healthcare companies.

There have always been a private healthcare sector in Finland but its recent dramatic growth during the last few years has never been seen before. It mirrors the growth in Sweden which has introduced private healthcare during the decade.

The introduction in Finland of private healthcare to provide public healthcare appears to be based on the simple premise that it is more efficient in terms of care and cost than public healthcare providers. The rapid increase in its growth have left many parts of the country without sufficient doctors and professional healthcare workers in the public sector as they have moved to higher paying private companies. This has left residents with long journeys at their own expense for basic and specialist healthcare.

Experience in Sweden appears to show that higher salaries and the demand for high dividends from private company shareholders does not translate into better services for patients. The companies have an incentive to test more patients and to perform more surgical procedures for which they are paid, as well as sending patients with expensive and critical health problems to the public sector for treatment.

Under the reform, it is the new Counties that must decide upon what bodies operate public healthcare – publicly-owed bodies or private companies. Their decisions can be challenged in the courts on the argument that public healthcare bodies are the recipients of illegal state aid. Public bodies cannot go bankrupt whilst private healthcare companies can. Of course, these arguments are spurious because it is the public sector that has to provide the service if the private sector fails to deliver or gives a poor service. Furthermore, it is strange that the courts can declare that voters are wrong to choose public healthcare services as the preferred healthcare providers! It seems that the courts are denying voters the right to exercise their democratic rights.

These competition laws are being set by the EU, and it appears that Neo-liberals are using these laws to interfere in how national governments run their public healthcare services. This is a new area covered by the competition laws that have been put in place by the EU, and which cause creeping control by the EU over the decision making of independent nations. 

Finland currently has an excellent system of public healthcare which is now being bombarded by private companies who are seeking to exploit EU competition regulations to reap competitive advantage over the public healthcare system – a result that the present Finnish government appears to be unwilling or deliberately negligent in stopping. 

The present government is inadvertently or deliberately pushing the country into a difficult position with the Healthcare Reform and creating the new Counties Readers. Readers must recall that the creation of the new Counties is the political land grab by the Centre Party, and the “Freedom of Choice”for healthcare is the ultimate wet dream of the Conservative Party and their doctor friends. These 2 parties have done a deal to support one another on both of these  proposals and, irrespective of the consequences for unsuspecting voters, it appears that the 2 proposals are going ahead at any cost in Parliament, where they expect to get a vote in favour of 101 to 99 against! 

So much for democracy, that worn out piece of leather! If the EU or competition authorities decide that there is illegal state aid being given too public sector healthcare bodies then the whole reform could be delayed for years!

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