The Picture of Health (Care)

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, T.R. Reid, The Penguin Press.

"At least we’re not as bad as the Americans.” That’s the standard response whenever the health insurance system of another wealthy, industrialized democracy comes under fire. It’s difficult to argue with that statement. The United States pays more for health care than any other nation in the world, yet Americans receive middling-quality care, even as its system leaves approximately 15 percent of its population uninsured.

In "The Healing of America,” T.R. Reid—longtime correspondent for the Washington Post—argues that our model requires "major surgery,”  and that we ought to "bring about fundamental change by borrowing ideas from foreign models of health care.” Reid examines the health insurance systems of countries like France, Germany, Japan, the UK and Canada, dispelling myths such as: "It’s all socialized medicine out there,” and "they ration care with waiting lists and limited choice.” Reid also demonstrates how national health programs in foreign countries manage to be far more efficient than the U.S. system, while frequently providing quicker access to care and more choice than that afforded to Americans.

Any citizen who wishes to educate himself or herself about the U.S. health care crisis—or consider ideas for reform—ought to read this timely and provocative book. Reid even has an answer for naysayers who claim that the health care business is too big to change, drawing parallels between the U.S. and both Switzerland and Taiwan, two industrialized democracies that "recently carried out fundamental reform of their health care systems, despite significant political opposition.”

At the same time, Reid takes care to point out that Americans have not definitively answered the fundamental (moral) question underlying reform: Should we guarantee medical treatment to everyone who needs it? "Once we settle that point,” he says, "the rest of the world can show us the way.”

Picture of Mental Health