This chapter reviews the public health care systems as well as their challenges. It first shows how expenditure on health care has evolved in previous decades and deals with the reasons for the growth observed in almost every European country. It emphasizes the role of technological progress as a main explanatory factor of the increase in medical expenditure but also points to the challenges facing cost-containment policies. Especially, the main common features of health care systems in Europe, such as third-party payment, single provider approach and cost-based reimbursement are discussed. Finally the chapter shows that although inequalities in health exist in the population, health care systems are redistributive. Reforms are thus needed but the trade-off between budgetary efficiency and equity is difficult.
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