Health Care

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care

A superb book. T.R. Reid is a journalist who has an excellent writing style. He identifies and examines all of the various types of health care systems in the world–Single Payer, which we are hearing so much about today and which our Medicare system is; the Bismarck Model of private (NON PROFIT) insurance companies; the Beveridge model, which is actual “socialized” medicine; the U.S. model, which actually is a dysfunctional conglomeration of the 3 previous models PLUS, the primary private for profit system that delivers substandard health care to a majority of the population.

As numerous studies have shown, even with “Obamacare”, the U.S. has the least effective health care system in the developed world, with even some developing nations providing superior care to their populations than the current system provides citizens of the U.S. Though written before Obamacare, a careful reading of the book will tell readers, while an improvement over what we had, Obama care ultimately will not work, and will have to be restructured into one of the existing 3 national health care systems. While my personal preference probably is single payer, I think it would be easier to get citizens to accept the Bismarck model of NON PROFIT private insurance companies. While it will surprise people indoctrinated in the myth of the magic of the “free market”, non profit insurance companies are very competitive; there actually are more health insurance companies per capita in Germany than in the U.S. France, which uses the Bismarck health care system generally is regarded as having the best health care system in the world. Germany’s health care system, of course, is among the best too. Even though we have single payer Medicare, I think the Bismarck system would be an easier sell to people who have fallen prey to the Republicans’ disingenuous arguments about national health care and “socialized” medicine.

Anyone truly interested in the nation’s health care should read Reid’s book, because it will be a genuine education on the various approaches to health care throughout the world.

uthor does an excellent job of analyzing all the various systems around the globe and putting all of them into four groups to help you organize it in your head. He’s just a good writer whose blessed with an intellect that really delivers. The only beef I have is him dedicating the book to Eisenhower. He must think republicans are too stupid to see right thru that one. It’s a bit much to trick us into a mindset of “how do the other guys (foreigners) do it?? Maybe we can come up with something better !!!!! Maybe we can be innovators and not imitators.
I will say His tax book is also excellent. Buy both. Read both ( if you’re like me you tend to buy and not read). Anyone in the market for healthcare ideas will gain tremendously from his reaearxh. He’s the antithesis of the wannabe author. He writes So you understand. Probably one of top writers in existence ( in terms of explaining things to people).

This book has some valuable insights to offer and it is not my intention to dissuade anyone from reading it. However, it is not exactly what I was expecting. Here is what I was hoping for: a book that would provide a detailed empirical analysis of the performance of various healthcare systems around the world that explains how they work, rates their performance, and responds to common criticisms (long waiting lines, lack of innovation, reduced choice, etc).

Economists construct models of how markets work and they often make arguments about what particular institutional arrangement would be superior based on those models. But in order to test those models it is necessary to look at the real world so I was hoping for a book that would examine empirically how alternative systems work and see if they are prone to the problems that some of the models predict they should be.

I did get some of what I was hoping for in this book. T.R. Reid provides a basic explanation for how the French, German, Japanese, British and Canadian healthcare systems work and he does respond to some common objections. For example, we learn that in some countries waiting times are actually shorter than in the U.S. (Japan, Germany) and we learn that in many countries consumers actually have more choice in terms of which doctors to see, what procedures to have done, and a greater choice in insurance.

However, a lot of the book was anecdotal – T.R. Reid visits doctors in every country he describes, which helps provide some concrete information about how these systems work in practice but does not answer more general questions about overall performance which require statistics. And he spends a lot of time telling stories that are of merely historical interest – brief biographies of the founders of the various healthcare systems, for example.

The book gave me a quick overview of different approaches to healthcare systems around the world but it did not provide me much in the way of concrete responses to arguments made by proponents of a free-market system other than the moral argument that we should not ration care based on ability to pay (which I happen to agree with). I was hoping for a little more depth but it was still worth reading.

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