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Is “Healthcare” One Word or Two?

Healthcare is such a popular topic of discussion. Whether you are talking about your recent visit to the doctor or new political policies related to affordable and universal healthcare, it’s simply a topic you can’t avoid in today’s social climate.

Health care is two words when using it as a noun to talk about a provider’s direct actions. However, when talking about the system or field encompassing medicine, it is one word. “Healthcare” is also a one word adjective to describe individuals in the industry.

Keep reading to uncover all the essential details for using “healthcare” correctly.

What Does “Healthcare” Mean?

“Healthcare” as one word is the noun to describe the business of providing medical services. “Health care” as two words is a noun phrase that describes the act of giving medical treatment.

Both forms of “healthcare” consist of two words, “health” and “care.” “Health” is a noun that refers to the general condition or state of the body or an adjective to describe something relating to the general condition or state of the body (source).

“Care” is also a noun referring to the process of protecting someone or something, in this case, your health (source). Combine them to get “healthcare, ” which means protecting your body’s general condition.

Both “healthcare” and “health care” are related to protecting your body’s conditions, whether it’s referencing the services that help with this or the specific actions you should take. But whether or not the term has a space or not affects its semantic meaning.

“Healthcare” is a noun (purple) or adjective (dark blue) that refers explicitly to the business of medical services or the health industry as a whole (source). This includes discussing a doctor’s office, the hospital, or other health services as a whole.

  • The healthcare industry is becoming more innovative.
  • I need to understand healthcare services more.
  • Healthcare is a hot political topic.

“Health care” is a noun pair that refers to the acts of treatment within the health industry and the people who provide it. This includes doctors, dentists, nurses, and therapists. They care for your health, or in other words, do the act of health care.

  • My doctor recommended some medications for my health care.

Here, the sentence uses “health care” instead of “healthcare” because it refers to a specific action – taking medication – that will help with your health care. “Healthcare” refers to a business or service you are visiting to get that recommendation eventually.

How Do You Use “Healthcare”?

“Healthcare” as one word is a noun since it refers to an industry and the services it provides. It can also be an adjective to describe the individuals in the field. “Health care” is only a noun phrase and functions as such.

“Healthcare” is a noun, meaning you use it the way you would a person, place, or thing within a sentence. Commonly, “healthcare” precedes a verb. Frequently, when using “healthcare” verbally, people follow it with “industry” (making “healthcare” an adjective to “industry”) to clarify their meaning, although this is not required.

For example, here is “healthcare” as an adjective (dark blue), direct object (dark green), and a subject (purple):

  • The healthcare industry in America is privately owned and hard to navigate.
  • My insurance covers healthcare in different states.
  • Healthcare is challenging to cover across state lines.

In the first sentence, “healthcare” is an adjective to talk about the industry. In the second sentence, “healthcare” is a noun that functions as a direct object, something that my insurance covers. In the final example, “healthcare” is a noun subject.

You use “health care” as a noun when talking about individuals in the industry and the care of your health as a thing rather than an action (source). For example, the doctor practices “health care.”

  • Providing health care to one’s patients can be challenging at times.

When Can You Use “Healthcare”?

You can use “healthcare” in many cases. “Healthcare” is for any time you reference the industry. This includes services or industries that work in health care. But, you use “health care” when discussing things you have done to care for your health or people who have cared for your health.

Usually, people use “healthcare” when trying to be abstract in what they are talking about. We see this most in the political sphere.

Many policies and laws make changes to healthcare accessibility within the United States. Instead of saying specificities like Obamacare or Medicare, people simply say “healthcare” to encompass everything within the medical industry.

  • I heard they are talking about healthcare again at the White House.

In the same vein, “health care” is correct when talking about the act of caring for your health. “Health care” is an open compound word combining the noun “health” and the verb “to care.” The compound works to describe the act of caring for your health.

  • I engaged in health care this morning when I brushed my teeth.
  • My doctor helps my health care by prescribing medication for pain.

“Health care” can also apply to mental health. Your therapist helps with your “mental health care” by listening to what you have to say.

Many people have defensive social tactics to protect their “mental health.” Unfortunately, this is a usage many people forget about or don’t use regularly, but it is still grammatically correct.

In What Context Can You Use “Healthcare”?

“Healthcare” has a variety of contexts in which we use it. The main idea is when you speak of anything relating to medical needs, whether treatment, an appointment, or politics, such as universal healthcare.

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When people use “healthcare,” they often talk about the industry or its politics. For example, if you are speaking to your friends about plans after college, you may say something like:

  • I am pre-med because I hope to work in healthcare one day.

“Health care,” however, has a very different context. People use this term when talking about caring for their health on a personal level. For example, if you were talking to someone about your standard hygiene routine, you might say:

  • My daily health care includes brushing my teeth and taking medication.

Using “Healthcare” in a Full Sentence

As a noun, you can place “healthcare” anywhere a noun can stand in a sentence. This includes acting as subject, direct object, indirect object, the object of a preposition, or subject complement. You may also use “healthcare” as an adjective, as in “healthcare provider.”

Here are some examples of how to use “healthcare” in a full sentence:

  • The healthcare system is not helpful in my country.
  • I disapprove of our healthcare.
  • My mother covers my grandmother’s healthcare.
  • My sister wants to work in the healthcare industry one day.
  • The politics of healthcare are so confusing.
  • Healthcare is such an exciting industry; it changes every day.

When Not to Use “Healthcare”

There are a few times when you should not use “healthcare.” Included in this are times you refer to a specific person or when talking about your health.

When you talk about a specific person, such as your doctor or dentist, you should not use “healthcare” alone. Instead, you can say “healthcare provider” to talk about them and what they do for you.

You should also not use “healthcare” when talking about your health. It should mean the industry that helps you take care of your health. If you want to talk about your individual health and what you do to take care of it, use “health care.”

It’s also essential to avoid “healthcare” when discussing politics unrelated to the industry or insurance usage. Many broadly use “healthcare” to refer to anything within the political sphere of health, but such usage is incorrect.

“Healthcare” within politics refers explicitly to the industry of medical services and the policies that apply to it, not the policies that apply to all health-related topics.

What Can You Use Instead of “Healthcare”?

“Healthcare” is a tricky word to find an alternative for, but there still exist synonyms you can use instead of “healthcare.” These include the medical industry, primary care, and wellness.

Since “healthcare” relates to the services the health industry provides, one of the best things to do when looking for other words is to get specific. For example, you can say “doctor appointment” or “health services” instead. Or, even more specifically, you can name the profession or service you think of instead of saying “healthcare.”

  • I am hoping to work in dentistry when I am older.

Additionally, instead of using “health care” to reference the act of caring for your health, you can continue to be specific by naming treatments or advice that your doctor has given you. Talk about what you did this morning to take care of your health rather than broadly saying you engaged in “health care.”

  • My doctor said I need to start taking more showers.

But there are also plenty of broad synonyms you can use as well. “Wellness” is a term that encompasses a lot more than just routine medical things, such as massages, mental health appointments, and more. However, you can still use it as a synonym for “healthcare” (source). 

  • For my wellness, I need to take some time off work.

“Primary care” is another popular alternate term for physicians that are your primary source of healthcare services.

  • My primary care provider is Dr. Smith.

Open, Closed, and Hyphenated Compounds

In English, compound words have three forms: open, closed, and hyphenated. They are all a combination of two existing words put together to describe something different.

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Open compounds are two words that have a space between them but together mean something different than if they were standing alone in a sentence. So, for example, “school” as an education building, and “bus” as a vehicle, can come together to make a “school bus,” which is a yellow bus that transports students.

Closed compounds are similar to open ones but do not have a space in between them. An example of a closed compound would be “fireman.” “Fire” is the sparks and flames that burn, and “man” is the human being.

However, when you put them together, you get a different meaning. “Fireman” means a person that is responsible for dealing with fires. Closed compounds take the combined meanings of the two words and change them slightly, so they relate to each other.

Some words can be open or closed compounds, like summertime, but how it’s written changes the meaning. For example, “Summer Time” means British Daylight Savings time, but “summertime” means the season of summer.

Read more about open and closed compounds in these two articles: Is “Summertime” One Word or Two? and Is “Timeframe” One Word or Two?

And finally, hyphenated compounds are two words that have been put together with a dash in between them. A typical example of this is “six-pack.” It turns two nouns, “six” and “pack,” into a noun or a hyphenated adjective that modifies the new noun, such as abs or a pack of soda.

  • She worked hard for months to get six-pack abs.
  • Dave brought a six-pack to the game.

Hyphenated compounds are only hyphenated if they are a noun typically written that way or a multiple-word adjective that comes before the noun it modifies. If a multiple-word adjective is hyphenated before a noun, there will be no hyphens after the noun.

  • The up-to-date system is working well.
  • The new system is up to date and working well.

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These have dashes because, rather than simply combining the meaning of the two words to reference a new noun, hyphenated compounds change the meaning of the words into something new entirely.

Final Thoughts

The question of whether “healthcare” is one word or two is a complicated answer. In short, it is both, depending on what you want to say. When referring to the industry, it is one word. When referring to the action of providing care for your health, it is two words. The same goes for referring to your health care as a concept rather than an effort.

In reality, this matters most when you are writing. When talking in English, they sound the same, and context clues help the listener understand your meaning. As long as you can provide some context to the purpose of your statements, native speakers will understand you.