Modern medicine, characterized by growing specialization and a complex diagnostic and therapeutic technology, faces problems in the allocation of capital and personnel resources. Some authorities advocate an increase in the use of paramedical personnel to supervise the care of individuals with common, chronic, or terminal illnesses, leaving the physician in charge of treating curable disease. Others emphasize the physician's responsibility to help patients and families in the overall management of their health problems, many of which are thought to reflect the social ills of living in an urban, industrialized society.
In some countries, such as Great Britain, medical care is under government control and is available virtually without charge to all. In the United States, medical practice is characterized by a patchwork mixture of government and private control. The Kefauver-Harris amendments to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1962 empower the Food and Drug Administration to require stricter testing and licensing of new drugs. There have also been federal, state, and local programs for mass vaccination and other public health programs. The Medicare program, enacted in 1965, provides subsidized hospital and nursing-home care for persons over 65 and, with the Hill-Burton Act, provides funds for state aid to the medically indigent (Medicaid).
A wide variety of private medical insurance plans are also available to those who can afford them, and many employers pay all or part of their employees' health insurance premiums. In addition, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), or group practice plans, are designed to promote disease prevention and reduce medical expenditures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.