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UK Welfare State
Good health is an important factor to an individualís welfare. It is an
essential prerequisite for the enjoyment of life. For this reason the importance
of healthcare to governments is great and vast amounts of resources are
allocated to healthcare, for example in the UK healthcare equates for 6% of GNP.
Some argue that Healthcare is a social issue rather than economic but the
allocation of scarce resources and the inelastic demand for healthcare lends it
self to economic analysis. Equitable allocation of a commodity is one in which
everyone receives a minimum standard and quantity. So in terms of full equality
in the society everyone should consume the commodity equally. In healthcare this
argument becomes complicated, should everyone receive a minimum standard of
healthcare? Or should everyone get the best healthcare available? The truth is
that hospital buildings, doctors and medical equipment all take up resources.
The best standard of healthcare could only be given if all of the governmentís
resources were allocated to the provision of health. This would be a foolish
thing to do, as other commodities would not be produced which may be detrimental
to health and other aspects of life. Healthcare is different from all other
products in that the (supplier) doctor knows more about it than the (consumer)
patient. Consumers can distinguish between two types of product and choose the
one, which gives them greatest utility but with health care the patient is not
educated enough about medicine to choose between two treatments and must
therefore go with what the doctor recommends. This imbalance of knowledge gives
the healthcare industry suppliers monopoly power. A healthcare supplier could
lower the standard of service and not fear loss of customers. A doctor may also
recommend a treatment that is costly and therefore will bring in higher profit
for himself without the average person knowing any better.
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