Service vouchers promote the freedom of choice as they allow people to obtain some of the social and health services they need from private service providers. According to a recent study by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, clients get heard best in units providing social and health services when they use a service voucher. Service vouchers can of course also be used in other services.
In Finland, services provided with service vouchers account for approximately one percent of the costs of social and health services. This is a low percentage, considering that national studies have shown that for example in home care, the use of service vouchers produces average cost savings of 40%.
Even though the number of services available with a voucher has increased rapidly in recent years, the costs of service vouchers have remained low. Even municipalities that organise various services through the service voucher system do not always estimate the costs of their own services correctly, and the value of service vouchers ends up being too low. According to the Act on Service Vouchers in Social Welfare and Health Care, the organiser’s own costs should be taken into account in pricing. However, these calculations only take account of direct staff costs that only account for one third of the total costs. This may cause entrepreneurs not to be interested in service vouchers.
When reforming the act on service vouchers, it is important that the policymakers also pay attention to the support needed to ensure harmonised practices. According to a service voucher survey that was conducted among social and health service entrepreneurs in the capital region in 2018, there are remarkable differences in practices and rules between different cities in the region. There are also differences between different sectors of the city organisations. This complex situation makes things difficult for entrepreneurs.
The introduction of service vouchers has many positive effects. They increase the freedom of choice for clients and patients and improve the availability of services. They support local small businesses, market development and innovations. Increased collaboration between the public and private sectors would enable more effective, varied and flexible services.
This article was written by Pentti Komssi, Public Procurement Agent for the capital region. He advises entrepreneurs and businesses on public procurement.
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A service voucher is a commitment by a municipality’s social and health services to reimburse a voucher user for the costs of a service that is provided by a private service provider, up to the value determined in advance by the municipality. A service voucher is one way of providing social and health services that are the responsibility of municipalities. More information on the website of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.