Health care is an ecosystem of many unique moving parts. It is a complex landscape that suits the individual patient’s specific needs and one that will change over time. A healthy, well-functioning healthcare system is a goal worth striving for. No nation has the perfect health system, but by learning from what’s worked — and not worked — elsewhere, countries can try new approaches to get closer to that ideal of a health care system that achieves optimal health for all its citizens at a price the country can afford.
The most common form of health care in the world is a mix model, where private providers and insurers coexist with government-sponsored programs that help to control costs, deliver services efficiently and promote societal health goals (see graphic below). Some countries have a single national insurer such as France or Korea, while others have multiple competing insurance companies although some still have a centrally controlled pricing system. Regardless of the form of health care, it is important to make sure that you understand the cost and coverage of your plan. The best way to do that is by reviewing a summary of benefits, which lists the covered services and outlines how much each service will cost. You can usually find these documents on the health insurance company’s website or by contacting your employer.
A key component of most health insurance plans is preventive care, which is designed to keep you healthy and avoid expensive medical expenses. This includes routine screenings and vaccinations, as well as early detection and treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Health insurance also covers health-related activities that are not medical care, such as dietary advice and smoking cessation programmes.
Without health insurance, people are more likely to skip needed care or delay treatment due to cost concerns, according to research. Those who do not have health insurance are also less likely to visit the doctor regularly, resulting in worse health outcomes over time. The best solution is to have affordable and accessible health care, which can be accomplished by implementing a mix model of public and private sector providers with a strong emphasis on prevention.
Whether you believe everyone has a right to healthcare or no one does (it works either way) and whether you prefer a free market mechanism or government-controlled system, there is one thing we can all agree on: it must allow for the full operation of the principles of the free market to naturally operate in a health care context. That is the only way to make it work in an efficient and fair manner. Government regulation and laws have distorted the free market’s natural ability to function in healthcare for almost a century. This has distorted the entire industry. Free market principles have not failed healthcare — rather, government intervention and law has rendered the industry bloated, expensive, inefficient and difficult to access or use.