In a system of free market healthcare, prices for healthcare goods and services are set freely by agreement between patients and health care providers, and the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority. A free market contrasts with a controlled market, in which government intervenes in supply and demand through non-market methods such as laws creating barriers to market entry or directly setting prices.
Advocates of free market healthcare contend that systems like single-payer health care and publicly funded health care result in higher costs, inefficiency, longer waiting times for care, denial of care to some, and overall mismanagement.
Skeptics argue that health care as an unregulated commodity invokes market failures not present with government regulation. Individuals with pre-existing conditions would in some cases not be able to afford health care. Hospitals providing unreimbursed charity care might face bankruptcy. Selling health care as a commodity leads to both unfair and inefficient systems with poorer individuals being unable to afford preventive care.
The health freedom movement supports free choice in health care. The libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute argues in favor of deregulation of the medical profession and health care sector. Some activists are politically left-wing, whilst the former Republican congressman and 2008 U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul, who supports a free-market health care system, calls himself a free market libertarian. A leading supporter of the movement, Paul introduced the Health Freedom Protection Act in the U.S. Congress in 2005.
Health care or healthcare is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in human beings. Health care is delivered by practitioners in allied health, dentistry, midwifery (obstetrics), medicine, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, psychology and other health professions. It refers to the work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Access to health care varies across countries, groups, and individuals, largely influenced by social and economic conditions as well as the health policies in place. Countries and jurisdictions have different policies and plans in relation to the personal and population-based health care goals within their societies. Health care systems are organizations established to meet the health needs of target populations. Their exact configuration varies between national and subnational entities. In some countries and jurisdictions, health care planning is distributed among market participants, whereas in others, planning occurs more centrally among governments or other coordinating bodies. In all cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a well-functioning health care system requires a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately-paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; and well maintained health facilities and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies.
Health care can contribute to a significant part of a country's economy. In 2011, the health care industry consumed an average of 9.3 percent of the GDP or US$ 3,322 (PPP-adjusted) per capita across the 34 members of OECD countries. The USA (17.7%, or US$ PPP 8,508), the Netherlands (11.9%, 5,099), France (11.6%, 4,118), Germany (11.3%, 4,495), Canada (11.2%, 5669), and Switzerland (11%, 5,634) were the top spenders, however life expectancy in total population at birth was highest in Switzerland (82.8 years), Japan and Italy (82.7), Spain and Iceland (82.4), France (82.2) and Australia (82.0), while OECD's average exceeds 80 years for the first time ever in 2011: 80.1 years, a gain of 10 years since 1970. The USA (78.7 years) ranges only on place 26 among the 34 OECD member countries, but has the highest costs by far. All OECD countries have achieved universal (or almost universal) health coverage, except Mexico and the USA. (see also international comparisons.)
Health care is conventionally regarded as an important determinant in promoting the general physical and mental health and well-being of people around the world. An example of this was the worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980, declared by the WHO as the first disease in human history to be completely eliminated by deliberate health care interventions.