We begin by asking why controlling health costs is such a problem. After all, we do not talk about the need for public policies to control the costs of automobiles, computers, theater tickets, or, for that matter, most other goods and services we consume. We let market forces operate, and we generally find the results to be acceptable. Why is health care different? There are a number of characteristics of medical services that make them different from most other products and that help account for the cost control problem and the failure of market forces to constrain costs.