If you regularly read this, or any other health care/insurance publication, you're probably used to a pretty common inconsistency. Sometimes we talk about "healthcare" and sometimes we talk about "health care". Did you notice how I threw a space in between the words there? It might actually mean something.
Let me explain the difference between the two. These aren't dictionary definitions, they're just observations that I've picked up over time.
When you're using two words (health care) it general refers to the actual system for providing medical services. Hospitals, doctors, pharmacuetical companies and ambulances are all part of "health care". When you write "healthcare" it means the overall system that not only provides medical care, but also pays for it. "healthcare" includes insurance companies, employer benefits and tax code on top of all the doctors and hospitals.
Obviously I, and anyone else making this distinction, am really splitting hairs, but there's something valuable to take away from these two different terms. It's important to keep in mind that in an economy like ours, money drives everything. The way people pay for services and goods has a tremendous impact on the quality of the products they receive.
I hear a lot of people talking about how the healthcare bills that are being proposed don't actually address healthcare, they only address health insurance. I would argue that it is very possible that the entire system can be reformed based entirely around changes to the insurance structure.
If our lawmakers do the right thing and continue the move toward consumer-driven healthcare, that means that individuals users of medical services will start holding the hospitals and doctors accountable for their prices and business practices. This in turn could force doctors to adopt medical I.T. and more efficient processes on their own without any government mandates.
I'm not saying that this will happen, but only that it is possible that health insurance reform will end up being the same thing as health care reform. Maybe "healthcare" and "health care" are the same thing after all.