The health sector is one of the most important sectors of the economy, already exceeding manufacturing industry in size in a few countries. During the economic crisis it has been one of the few areas of economic expansion and has continued to be a source of jobs growth. But to most economists, it is a ‘black box', little understood, only partially open to market forces, often subject to direct ‘command and control' by the public sector. Nearly all economic aspects of the health sector appear to be different from those of the rest of the economy, a peculiarity perhaps most typified by the fact that new technologies in the health sector generally increase costs rather than reducing them. With public budgets under pressure, it is necessary to ask whether we are ensuring value for money in our health systems. The OECD collects a broad range of comparative data on the health systems of their member countries which can be used to compare health care performance internationally.
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