Health Care and Public Policy

Health Care and Public Policy

David Reisman

Health Care and Public Policy is a comprehensive and intelligible cross-disciplinary account of the objectives of health care policy (medical, social, economic) and of the policy-tools that government can employ (cost–benefit analysis, entry barriers, competition) in order to ensure that scarce resources are not wasted nor needy social groups deprived of basic and affordable care.

Chapter 2: Health Status and Health Care

David Reisman

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy, health policy and economics


Everyone wants health. Along with vodka, cigarettes, hang gliding, high-fat grease, serial promiscuity and fast cars, it is one of the good things in life that people want. This chapter is about health. It says that robust definitions are not easy to come by and that the endstates are a mix. It attempts nonetheless to shed some light on what is meant by a satisfactory health status. It attempts to put a name to the health care inputs that keep us well. Health and health care are elusive concepts. Few, however, are so highly valued or figure so often in the eye of debate. Section 1 examines the mortality and the morbidity statistics. Section 2 discusses the actors and the instruments. Section 3 is about health capital in the sense of Grossman. Section 4 is about the correlation between health status and economic growth. The message of the chapter is in line with the assessment that ‘one man’s explicandum is another man’s conundrum’; that ‘a market for health … must also be a market for ideas’ (Reisman, 1993: 240). It therefore recommends that doctors, economists, policymakers and politicians should all have an open mind when exploring the intellectual maze of optimal health and care. 2.1. Health Status The World Health Organization has made it all clear. Good health, it says, means ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (World Health Organization, 1962 [1946]: 1). Physical well-being is the body. Mental...

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