Private healthcare or private medicine is healthcare and medicine provided by entities other than the government.
Charging patients or private insurers for work
Europeans in all countries are willing to pay a charge for some private healthcare, whether to avoid long queues, to access cosmetic surgery, or to avoid the perceived risk of infection in public-sector hospitals. This is not a small market. In Finland, it is estimated that it is worth some €700m a year. In Greece, half the income of private hospitals is from one-off payments from patients. Maternity is a particularly large private market, as it is the demand for fertility both at home and abroad. Healthcare tourism is also thriving within the EU, in which patients (mainly from the UK) travel to Eastern Europe for low-cost dental work. The particularly wealthy Russians and Saudi Arabians tend to go to private hospitals in Switzerland or Germany.
As most Europeans have access to public sector provision either through their mandatory social insurance fund or through taxes, private healthcare insurance remains a relatively small market, with levels typically in the range of 2–8% of the population. Many consumers prefer to pay single fees as and when necessary. In addition, any occupational healthcare paid for by employers renders private healthcare insurance unnecessary. Nonetheless, around 10% of Germans have some form of private healthcare insurance which enables them to experience a slightly higher level of comfort during hospital stays. The most notable development in this area has been the Netherlands, which in 2005 moved to a system whereby all citizens are forced to take out private healthcare insurance rather than social insurance.
In many European countries with a state-run national health service, employers are obliged to pay for some level of healthcare for their employees. This is the case in Romania, Poland, and Finland, for instance, and one can find networks of small clinics in large cities in these countries. In other countries, such as the UK and Sweden, many employers are willing to pay for occupational healthcare for their workforce so that key workers can avoid delays in seeing a doctor when they are unwell. Naturally, though, the occupational health department of a publicly funded hospital will provide a similar standard of healthcare to that provided for patients.
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