A Ban on Hospital Advertising:Make hospitals choose between advertising or keeping their non-profit status:
I support a ban on hospital advertising by hospitals wishing to enjoy the tax breaks associated with non-profit status. As someone who generally supports the freedom of businesses and individuals to do as they wish, I have no objection to hospitals advertising if they want to be treated as for-profit entities. If they want to be treated as non-profit organizations and enjoy exemption from property tax, sales tax, and corporate income tax, then I think it is fair to require them to spend their funds directly on healthcare and refrain from advertising.
How would a ban on hospital advertising help?
I believe that a ban on hospital advertising would have two primary benefits: it would result in better care, and it would reduce healthcare costs.
How could banning hospital advertising result in better care?
I think that in an ideal world, potential patients would make choices about hospitals on the basis of impartial, independent reviews, referrals from friends, family, and coworkers, and professional recommendations of doctors and other medical professionals. Advertising by hospitals does not communicate accurate information: it is a PR campaign in which the hospitals leverage their financial resources to sway the public perception of their organization.
Banning advertising would force hospitals to rely on publicity through coverage in independent sources. This would result in a stronger incentive for improving the quality of care and the patient experience, as patients and their families would have a greater voice in shaping the public reputation of a hospital once advertising were taken out of the picture.
I also think that hospital advertising results in inferior public health because it serves the goal of drawing more people in to visit hospitals. I am a firm believer that the ideal goal of every hospital would be to see patients only out of need, and to keep as many people as possible from needing to visit the hospital. Advertising directly contradicts this principle.
How could banning hospital advertising lower health care costs?
- In game theory terms, hospital advertising creates a "prisoner's dilemma". As one hospital spends more on advertising, it draws business from others, which must then spend more money to compete on an equal footing with the other hospital. The result is escalating advertising costs, which ultimately takes funds away from the hospital's spending on health care.
- Hospital advertising makes people think more about hospitals and medical conditions. This fuels hypochondria, and also creates a more positive public perception of hospitals in general, both of which lead a greater portion of people to seek health care in hospitals. This drives up the health care costs for society as a whole.
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