The health care industry is a global sector that encompasses many different aspects. The industry provides medical, dental, and veterinary services to maintain or restore human health. In addition, it supplies medicines and healthcare equipment and devices to help diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. Some of the key players in the health care industry include hospitals, physician organizations, managed care companies, insurance providers, and drug manufacturers. The health care industry also includes allied health professionals, such as nurses, physiotherapists, and psychologists.
Health care is a necessary service, but its availability and access are often limited in different ways. Sometimes it is a resource issue, where there are not enough resources to go around (organs, primary care physicians, or advanced technologies). Other times it is an allocation issue, where the distribution of healthcare resources is in question.
In economic terms, the allocation of healthcare resources can be considered a macroallocation problem or a microallocation problem. Macroallocation problems in healthcare are those where the distribution of healthcare resources affects multiple people and are determined by society or government, such as the budget for a new hospital or the allocation of funds to research. Microallocation is more the purview of individual healthcare professionals and may involve the allocation of time or treatment options for a single patient.
Allocation decisions in healthcare are often ethically sensitive, and there is a lot of debate over what constitutes adequate healthcare. For example, should consideration be given to future generations in the allocation of healthcare resources? This issue is a matter of distributive justice, and it may require that the current generation make sacrifices to ensure that future generations have adequate access to healthcare.
Some people believe that the best way to allocate healthcare resources is through a free market, with private individuals and entities purchasing insurance coverage and providing healthcare services for themselves. Libertarians advocate that the role of the government should be to stay out of the healthcare business, and allow private enterprises to operate freely in a competitive environment. Others, particularly those with conservative views on morality, have a more traditional view of the role of the government in society.
Health care is often a high-stakes industry, and its practitioners are held to an extremely high standard of conduct. As such, it is important to find a doctor you can trust and who accepts your insurance plan. When selecting a health insurance plan, look for plans that have large networks so you can find doctors close to home who take your health insurance.
When shopping for a health insurance plan, it is important to keep in mind that the cost of healthcare services can vary considerably by provider and geographic region. It is also important to compare the quality of healthcare provided by a given provider. In some cases, the difference in cost can be offset by the quality of care received.