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December 19, 2007

What Is Different About the Market for Health Care?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Mr Wells and Dr Detsky); Departments of Geriatrics and Adult Development and Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York (Dr Ross); Health Services Research and Development Service Targeted Research Enhancement Program and Geriatrics Research, Education, and Clinical Center, James J. Peters Veterans Administration Medical Center, Bronx, New York (Dr Ross); Departments of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation and Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto (Dr Detsky); and University Health Network, Toronto (Dr Detsky).

JAMA. 2007;298(23):2785-2787. doi:10.1001/jama.298.23.2785

Economics is a social science that describes how society produces and consumes goods and services. It is concerned with both efficiency (getting the most out of a fixed amount of resources) and distribution (who gains and who loses). The use of free markets as a mechanism of promoting efficiency has been touted by the majority of economists since the time of Adam Smith. His theory was that in free markets each individual, pursuing his or her own self-interests, will be led, as if by some “invisible hand,” to produce an allocation that maximizes society's utility.

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