Jump into the complex issue of health care in the United States. Health care—defined as the maintenance or improvement of personal well-being via the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, or impairment—is a multilayered system that includes the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, midwifery, psychology, psychiatry, occupational and physical therapy, and other healthcare professions in the industry to improve personal well-being.
Most patients’ first interaction with the healthcare system is through their primary care physician, also known as a general practitioner or family physician. Primary care provides the widest scope of health care, allowing patients to receive remedies to improve a wide range of acute and chronic physical, mental, and social issues. Patients also can receive regular checkups and vaccinations from their primary care doctor.
Secondary care is medical care provided by a specialist or facility, often requiring a referral by a primary care physician for patient care. This sort of care frequently takes place in a hospital emergency room and allows for short-term remedies to address a serious illness, injury, or other health condition such as childbirth. Secondary care can also occur outside of a hospital environment, as is the case with allied healthcare professionals such as physical therapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, and nutritionists.
Tertiary care provides treatment in a facility for those needing advanced medical investigation, such as those requiring surgery or medical advice for cancer.
Health care can also occur outside of a health facility, as is the case with home care and assisted-living facilities. Interventions in the interest of public health include needle-exchange programs to stop the spread of AIDS among drug users and the distribution of condoms.
Due to the high cost of treatment, most patients must have health insurance to pay for medical services. Many people contribute to an employer-provided insurance plan; others pay for their own insurance. Those who cannot afford insurance can seek help through government-run programs such as Medicare or Medicaid.
Access to and funding of health care have become major issues in the 21st century, as the cost of health care and insurance has risen beyond many Americans’ ability to pay. President Barack Obama attempted to address this problem through the passage of the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare), which sought to make insurance more affordable. The act was unpopular with Republican legislators, who moved to limit many of its provisions under the presidency of Donald Trump.