Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Healing of America- A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Healthcare (my review)

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health CareThe Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a friend a couple of years ago. After months and months of debating friends about the necessity of "Obamacare" (The PPACA or ACA for short), I decided it was finally time to pick up this book and get an idea of what others were doing in the health care arena. I know what I don't like about our system- cost, lack of access for those who don't have insurance or money. And, I know what I like- the availability of doctors and medicine and procedures as long as you able to pay. What I didn't know other than from some very biased perspectives- my right wing friends who say all "socialized" medicine is horrible with no choice and long lines- and smear jobs like the movie "Sicko" was what are others doing that is better than us? What can we learn from what other countries have done?

T.R. Reid does an excellent and it seems objective job of summarizing the pros and the cons of each medical system he visits. And, there are pros and cons to each. None is perfect. If you're going to cover everyone at an affordable price, you cannot offer every procedure under the sun with no waiting. If you're going to have the absolute best care available with complete choice of doctors, hospitals, etc. you're not going to be able to cover everyone. What every system in the developed world seems to have in common, outside of the United States, is the will the moral imperative, that everyone will be covered.

This book made me both hopeful and discouraged at the same time. Hopeful because other countries have made the change from where we are today to a more equitable and cost effective system where everyone gets covered and outcomes are actually better than they are here. However, I am discouraged because Americans seem to lack the will to cover everyone and American exceptionalism gets in the way of us looking to those who do it better and co-opting their ideas. We demonize the systems that are different from us and scare people about waiting periods or lack of access to certain things while we ignore the thousands who die each year here due to lack of access.

The good news is there is a better way to do things and we don't have to reinvent the wheel. This book clearly lays out what is good and bad about our system and others. While it probably wouldn't make sense to copy anyone's system whole-hog and while we would like to preserve the best things about our system, we can take inspiration from others as we design a better system for us. There will be some sacrifice involved for some, but overall, there is a better way.

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