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socialized medicine

socialized medicine, publicly administered system of national health care. The term is used to describe programs that range from government operation of medical facilities to national health-insurance plans. In 1948, Great Britain passed the National Health Service Act that provided free physician and hospital services for all citizens. The system was later amended, now charging a small fee for the filling of prescriptions and the purchasing of eyeglasses and dentures; it is funded jointly by a health-insurance tax and by the national treasury. Doctors are salaried by the government and receive an additional allotment per patient and for the performance of special services. Sweden maintains a compulsory health-insurance plan that provides for income compensation, hospital treatment, most of the physician's fee, and part of the cost of medicines. Maternity benefits are provided for expectant women. A large percentage of Israel's medical care is provided by the Histadrut, the national labor union. A number of private welfare organizations also provide care, and the armed forces maintain a number of military hospitals whose services are widely used since many citizens of Israel are military veterans. Canada has a federally sponsored system of medical insurance with voluntary participation on the part of each province; the system is funded by taxes and contributions from the government. The United States is the only major Western country without some form of socialized medical care. However, it does sponsor Medicare, a federally administered program for those over 65, and Medicaid, a federally funded program of medical care for the poor that is administered by the individual states. Veterans have access to Veterans Health Administration facilities; care is free or partially subsidized, depending on whether injuries and disabilities are service connected.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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