In the industrialised economies, health plays a central role in the individual scale of values. As a result of the advances in medicine that have generated new expectations in the fight against disease, the demand for quality of life has become part of our daily experience. Citizens no longer accept the inevitability of illness and absolutely reject sickness and pain.
Governments are faced with a new scenario: on the one hand, citizens are prioritizing the quality of health care services, on the other health costs are constantly on the rise, as a result of scientific and technological developments in medicine and an aging population. These are the main forces behind the demand for additional health care services, the increased cost of which is to be borne by the State.
Health spending in OECD countries averages more than 8% of gross domestic product (GDP) and the share is rising. Overall, some three quarters of that spending is publicly financed. Private health insurance accounts, on average, for only a quarter of private-sector financing, although there is great cross-country variation. In a third of the OECD member countries at least 30% of the population has private health insurance, while market size is negligible in nearly as many countries. Private health insurance also plays a variety of roles, ranging from primary coverage for particular population groups to a supporting role for public systems.