The Healing Of America: A Global Quest For Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, by T.R. Reid
As someone who works in part of the healthcare industry, the health care system of the United States is something I read about and think about on a fairly regular basis . Having read another book by the same author (from which he liberally borrows here), I knew going into this book that I would probably not like it a great deal. My low expectations were met, as this book was exactly how I thought it would be. As this author has experiencing with the Washington Post, it should come as little surprise that he is almost a caricature of a whiny, bleeding-heart liberal who talks out of both sides of his mouth and engaging in blatant dishonesty and crass partisanship. One wonders how the author expects anyone to believe him when part of the time he complains at how health care reform has been frequently derailed in the United States due to claims of socialism that the author considers unjust and when part of the time the author plays up the communist and socialist language and sympathies of those who have reformed health care in various countries. The author seems not to understand that one cannot have it both ways–either health care reform on the lines supported by the author is socialist, in which case it is just and proper to criticize it on precisely those grounds, or it is not, and there should be no connection between health care reform and an increased entitlement mentality and decreased fiscal stability among governments.
The contents of the book are basically divided into two parts, although the division is not explicitly made. After an introductory chapter that lays out the author’s contention that he is looking for two cures–one of them advise and treatment for a bum shoulder, the other a cure for the ailing American health care system, the author spends the first half or so of the book or so wandering from country to country: France, Germany, Japan, the UK, Canada, and India looking for treatment for his shoulder as a test of how the various health care systems work, and also seeking to compare various qualities of the system in terms of cost, freedom of choice, as well as the nature of their health care systems. After that the author decides to move from historical and geographical studies to some annoying leftist prescriptions for our own health care system, including a claim that our system is not too big to change, that a focus on preventative medicine is a path to lowering overall costs, and a sad liberal story about the contrasting tiers of health care in our country as a way of helping to encourage efforts at change. The book includes an appendix that discusses the best health care system of the world.
Despite the fact that I congenially loathed this book and found the author to be extremely shrill and dishonest in his rhetoric, this book is not entirely useless. Reform efforts that target the profit-based nature of much of America’s health care companies and that seek to simplify the amount of paperwork necessary and the billing, and that create a shared nationwide risk pool for all citizens would seem to be a reasonable means of addressing some of more obviously broken aspects of our health care system. There need not be any complicated 2000 word laws that create reforms that are build in order to fail to spur on a higher degree of socialized medicine. Even so, despite the fact that not all of what the author says is total garbage, there are a lot of areas that the author simply gets wrong, including a lack of trust in the efficiency of government that hinders support of many of the more socialist options for health care. If there is one thing clear from the author’s discussion, it is that a belief that health care is a “right” that belongs to all citizens is an expensive entitlement for all nations, especially in an age of default and austerity like our own. These are not propitious times for the prescription this book has to offer.
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