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The movement toward national health insurance is gaining momentum in the United States. How has government intervention affected medical care in other countries? This book reveals common patterns of development in five European countries—West Germany, England and Wales, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden—that might well serve to guide the future of health care in America.
The authors examine compulsory health insurance in each country, showing how it was introduced to provide every citizen with equal access to a physician’s services. The focus of government policy later shifted to the development of hospitals, and the proliferation of specialized institutions—for the aged, mentally ill, mentally retarded—highlighted the defects of piecemeal development. Each country learned that unlimited health care does not guarantee unlimited health and that the emphasis must be placed on preventive medicine, education, and the reduction of environmental causes of disease. Throughout, the authors describe the roles played in the development of a health policy by physicians, insurance companies, labor unions, and legislators. The result is a penetrating analysis of the forces, accidental and intentional, that have shaped national health insurance programs and the development of healthcare resources.