Perceptions of Healthcare Systems, Family Policy and Benefits for the Unemployed and Poor in Europe
3. Healthcare – our greatest good? Health is generally considered the most valuable commodity by individuals in all societies. As a consequence, healthcare providers are traditionally equipped with a high social status, and healthcare systems were institutionalized earlier than most other social security programs. Despite the great importance of health and healthcare, there has always been a dispute over the institutional structure that would best serve the goal of providing good-quality healthcare. Values that are partly in conflict with one another, such as equality, security and individual choice, have contributed to a complex process of institutionalization. Furthermore, powerful interest groups, such as doctors’ associations and public and private insurance funds, have been influential players in the health policy arena (Immergut 1992; Tuohy 2003; Wendt 2006), resulting in a great variety of healthcare systems in modern societies. Since the early 1990s, a great number of countries have begun implementing market mechanisms in their public healthcare schemes. Some health policy makers consider healthcare to be a good much like other goods and services and prefer a provision of healthcare to be negotiated among providers and purchasers in the healthcare market. Scholars of comparative health policy, on the other hand, have argued that market principles and profit-making incentives clash with the ideas of equality and security in healthcare (see Gauld 2009; Marmor et al. 2009; Okma and Crivelli 2009; Marmor and Wendt 2011). White (2009) even concludes that ‘it is silly to expect “market forces” to create integrated, high quality multispecialty medical organizations’ (White...
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