Health Care Systems
The issue of health care and health care reform is a topic of growing debate in the United States. Health care touches everyone. There are families who worry about their children and aging relatives; employers who must provide health insurance to their employees and the employees who need the benefits. In addition, there are the government officials and politicians who are concerned about the rising cost of health care; and, of course, the hospitals and doctors who are responsible for delivering health care.
Having adequate health care is extremely important to people. Even successful medical treatment can involve pain, anxiety, risk, and, inevitably, lots of money. The last thing a patient in a hospital wants to think about is "how am I going to pay for all of this?" Ideally, instead of worrying about money, a patient should be concentrating on getting well. However, the whole subject of health insurance can be mystifying. Very often people do not fully understand their health insurance plans, and many people have run into problems because of their lack of understanding.
This chapter is a starting point for becoming an informed health care consumer by providing valuable information to be used in making health care decisions. When confronted with choices about doctors, specialists, health care plans, and hospitals, a consumer needs to be empowered with the information to make affordable and effective decisions.
This chapter will cover the basics of health care, including information about the health care system in America and in other countries; the different kinds of health insurance; Medicare and Medicaid; and how to navigate the world of health insurance under many different conditions, in sickness and in health.