A contract between an insurance provider (e.g. an insurance company or a government) and an individual or his/her sponsor (e.g. an employer or a community organization). The contract can be renewable (e.g. annually, monthly) or lifelong in the case of private insurance, or be mandatory for all citizens in the case of national plans. The type and amount of health care costs that will be covered by the health insurance provider are specified in writing, in a member contract or "Evidence of Coverage" booklet for private insurance, or in a national health policy for public insurance.
The Commonwealth Fund, in its annual survey, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall", compares the performance of the health care systems in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the U.S. Its 2007 study found that, although the U.S. system is the most expensive, it consistently under-performs compared to the other countries. One difference between the U.S. and the other countries in the study is that the U.S. is the only country without universal health insurance coverage.
There are different options available to both employers and employees. There are different types of plans, including health savings accounts and plans with a high or low deductible. The plans that have the high deductibles typically cost the employee less for the monthly premiums, but the part they pay for each time they use their insurance, as well as the overall deductible before the insurance covers anything is much higher. These types of plans are good for the people who rarely go to the doctor and need little health care. The lower deductible plans are typically more expensive, however, they save the employee from having to spend a lot of money out of pocket for services and treatment. The recent trend for employers is to offer the high deductible plans, called consumer-driven healthcare plans, because it costs them less overall for the care their employees need, but it is a lower monthly premium for the employees.
Usage Note: Some people insist on maintaining a distinction between the words healthy and healthful. In this view, healthful means "conducive to good health" and is applied to things that promote health, while healthy means "possessing good health," and is applied solely to people and other organisms. Accordingly, healthy people have healthful habits. However, healthy has been used to mean "healthful" since the 1500s, as in this example from John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education: "Gardening ... and working in wood, are fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business." In fact, the word healthy is far more common than healthful when modifying words like diet, exercise, and foods, and healthy may strike many readers as more natural in many contexts. Certainly, both healthy and healthful must be considered standard in describing that which promotes health.
The great positive impact of public health programs is widely acknowledged. Due in part to the policies and actions developed through public health, the 20th century registered a decrease in the mortality rates for infants and children and a continual increase in life expectancy in most parts of the world. For example, it is estimated that life expectancy has increased for Americans by thirty years since 1900, and worldwide by six years since 1990.
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