October 26, 2016

Being loyal to your health system

Entitats d’assegurança sanitària lliure de Catalunya 2014

Your country may have decided that publicly funded health coverage is mandatory for all citizens. Therefore, there is no opt-out posible. Your taxes or contributions will fund the system. What happens if you are not satisfied with the access or quality of services? You may complain, but unfortunately its impact will be negligible most of the times. This is the voice option in Hirschman terms. Voice is really a political and confrontational perspective, while  Exit is the alternative option.
While both exit and voice can be used to measure a decline in an organization, voice is by nature more informative in that it also provides reasons for the decline. Exit, taken alone, only provides the warning sign of decline. Exit and voice also interact in unique and sometimes unexpected ways; by providing greater opportunity for feedback and criticism, exit can be reduced; conversely, stifling of dissent leads to increased pressure for members of the organization to use the only other means available to express discontent, departure. The general principle, therefore, is that the greater the availability of exit, the less likely voice will be used.

Hirschman provides light to what is going on in our health system. Right now one fourth (24,9%, p.29) of the population has decided to "exit" the publicly funded health system. Well, really they can't exit, they pay twice, and this is the reason why it is said they have duplicate health insurance, the same services covered twice.
Hirschman  says that loyalty could reduce exit, however current health policy trends are exactly producing the opposite, reducing loyalty to the public system. And this could be the reason why every year there is an increase of departures. Well, really there are communication vessels and people switch between the systems according the services needed.
This is exactly what's going on, and somebody should ask: is this efficient in social terms?. My answer is absolutely not, you'll never pay twice if you want to buy a loaf of bread, why should be this the case for health insurance for 66% of Sarria district citizens, one third (37,5%) of Barcelona citizens or one fourth of catalan citizens?.
Beware of the warning sign of decline while health policy is encouraging hospital nationalization.

PS. Just to be clear, I'm not arguing for a formal opt-out system. It is unacceptable and outdated. I'm just asking for an efficient system that members engage in long-term loyalty relationships.