With public services such as health and education, it is not straightforward for consumers to assess the quality of provision. Many such services are provided by monopoly not-for-profit providers and there is concern that for-profit providers may increase profit at the expense of quality. This paper explores whether entry by for-profit providers is good for consumers despite the problem of unobserved quality. The model generates three key policy-relevant insights. First, by developing a novel approach to competition between different organizational forms, it frames the relevant trade-offs precisely. Second, it shows the value of keeping an incumbent not-for-profit as an active provider. Third, it characterizes the optimal payment (or voucher value) to an entrant for each consumer who switches in a way that can be applied empirically.
public services competition not-for-profit providers