This paper is about the relation established between our recognition of "public" and our understanding of "private". This is a major task for everyone devoted to making health policies feasible, inasmuch as the presence of both health care systems is regularly noticed in Brazil, namely through the Brazilian National Health Care System (Sistema Único de Saúde - SUS) and the Supplemental Health Care Program (Saúde Suplementar). In addition to retrieving the meanings ascribed to the terms "public" and "private" within a historical and critical approach, this paper attempts to understand the relation of such elements by articulating them in two modern macro-dimensions: the economic and the political. As the construction of meanings and senses for both terms is restored, it points to the existence of an interpenetrating relationship between them, which goes far beyond the dichotomic, withstanding tendency that prevails in common sense
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