Health care encompasses a wide range of services, products and devices for preventing, diagnosing, treating or managing disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments. These include medical, surgical and emergency treatment as well as rehabilitation and home health services. Health care also includes education, counseling and preventive services like vaccinations, screenings and disease prevention. Some examples of these services are laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging and prescription drugs. In addition, health care includes rehabilitative and assistive therapies and devices such as prosthetics and wheelchairs. Health care is delivered through a variety of settings including hospitals, doctor’s offices, community health clinics, schools and homes.
Health insurance is a system of benefits and protections designed to help people meet their health needs through an affordable and accessible method. It is a major source of financial security against the risk of catastrophic illness and disability, providing peace of mind to individuals and families. Health insurance companies offer a variety of plans with different coverage options, premiums, deductibles and coinsurance. These choices can make it difficult for consumers to compare prices, benefits and costs and decide which plan is best for them.
In developed countries, the majority of healthcare providers are private and financed by individuals or employer-sponsored health insurance programs. However, some countries have a fully government-financed, universal or national healthcare system, and others have a combination of private and public healthcare systems. Each country has its own unique set of healthcare problems and priorities that must be addressed.
The cost of health care has increased dramatically in recent decades in most developed nations. This increase has outpaced the growth in most other economic sectors and resulted in health care spending representing a large percentage of total consumer expenditures. The rising costs have strained many households’ budgets and contributed to a decline in the number of insured persons.
A number of theories exist regarding the best way to finance and deliver health care services. Some believe that the key is to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in terms of achieving results for a given level of resources expended. Others advocate a cost-benefit analysis that weighs alternatives in terms of both the amount of money they require and their impact on quality of life.
Still other theorists believe that effective healthcare delivery can be achieved only through a free market system, in which patients receive individualized care based on their needs and preferences. This approach focuses on individual patient empowerment and education, and promotes prevention as an essential component of healthcare delivery. It also seeks to ensure that all citizens have access to healthcare through affordable means, regardless of their social status or ability to pay.