A healthcare system is the organization by which health care is provided.
From an economic perspective, healthcare may be viewed as just another product or service to be purchased by an individual, however, healthcare has many special characteristics that encourage government intervention to a greater or lesser extent:
- The provision of critical healthcare treatment is often regarded as a basic human right, regardless of whether the individual has the means to pay—at the same moment some forms of healthcare treatment cost more than a typical family's life savings.
- Healthcare professionals are obligated by law and their oaths of service to provide lifesaving treatment.
- Healthcare professionals are monopolists in various respects: surgery, gynecology, prescribing, etc.
- Consumers often lack the information or understanding to be able to choose rationally between competing healthcare providers when they need treatment, particularly in the event of the need of urgent or emergency treatment.
Healthcare systems models
- Purely private enterprise healthcare systems are comparatively rare. Where they exist, it is usually for a comparatively well-off subpopulation in a poorer country with a poorer standard of healthcare–for instance, private clinics for a small, wealthy expatriate population in an otherwise poor country. But there are countries with a majority-private healthcare system with residual public service (see Medicare, Medicaid).
- The other major models are public insurance systems:
- Social security healthcare model, where workers and their families are insuranced by the State.
- Publicly funded healthcare model, where the residents of the country are insured by the State.
- Sickness insurance model, where the whole population or most of the population is a member of a sickness insurance company, which many regard as the ideal U.S. model, but which due to increasing costs is now less true than it was previously in the U.S.
In almost every country with a government health care system a parallel private system is allowed to operate, this is sometimes referred to as two-tier health care. The scale, extent, and funding of these private systems is very variable, however. In Canada the lack of private care is notable, and pride is widespread in their one-tier system of only government-provided healthcare, largely coordinated at the provincial level.
History of healthcare systems
needs fleshing out