Books to Get You Thinking

The pursuit of a comprehensive healthcare policy in the United States that would provide guaranteed universal coverage for all while at the same time succeed in cutting down the exponentially spiraling costs of health services has been the subject of intense debate over time culminating in the recent White House Summit on Health Reform on February 25th 2010. As the search for a viable solution continues, readers may want to understand the issues and complexities involved in designing a reformed system of healthcare in America. What are the current failings of our health system and what would be the implications of maintaining the status quo for the future economic growth of the country and for the health and well being of its citizens? Here are some selections from MCL’s collection that discuss this contentious issue.

The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office by David Blumenthal and James Morone
A fascinating account of the history of America’s health care policy and reform spanning seventy five years from the time of Franklin Roosevelt through the years under George Bush. The current debate and quest for a sustainable health care system is examined in its historical context and the evolution of the two competing health care models is detailed in depth. In the 1930s the idea of a single payer system model was first conceived and a version of it was later adopted by Lyndon Johnson as part of the Medicare program. An alternate model shaped by Eisenhower depended on tax break for employee health benefits and a market with private insurers and employees to cover healthcare. Making extensive use of archival materials including Presidential documents and transcripts the authors examine the political and economic forces as well as the personal qualities of American Presidents and leaders that has shaped health policy and its implementation over time.

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better Cheaper and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid
The author, a long time correspondent for the Washington Post provides a compelling case for overhauling the current health care system in the US. Despite having the highest level of per capita spending on health care the United States has lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and lower rates of recovery from major diseases when compared to other developed countries. Drawing on a comprehensive study of the health care systems of several industrialized countries including France, Switzerland, Britain, Japan and Canada, Reid makes a compelling case for planning health care reform based on universal health care access that combines government controls with free choice, entrepreneurship, and competition amongst doctors to bring about superior medical coverage at more affordable prices.

Who Killed Health Care? : America's $2 Trillion Medical Problem--and the Consumer-Driven Cure by Regina Herzlinger
The author, a Harvard Business School professor, discusses the critical condition of America’s health care system and lays down a blueprint for a reformed system that would restructure the health care delivery system around the needs of patients and free consumer choice to enable comprehensive guaranteed healthcare coverage. Drawing from the model of health care used by Switzerland where universal health care is guaranteed to all but health care costs account for a much lower percentage of GDP compared to the US, the author advocates a system where individual purchase of health care insurance would be mandated by the government. At the same time this would be accompanied by greater transparency so that consumers could make informed choices in the selection of health care providers based on the quality and costs of the services offerings. The system would deliver a high quality, low cost health care system by encouraging accountability amongst providers at all levels.

Chaos and Organization in Health Care by Thomas Lee and James Mongan
The authors, both physicians and leading senior executives in healthcare, attribute the existing chaos in healthcare delivery to the rapid breakthroughs in medicine and technology that have been taking place. This has led to a plethora of treatment and test options that are available in an industry dominated by small fragmented medical practices and individual patients with multiple health care providers. The result is an expensive and suboptimal system of health care delivery. Along with insightful analysis using real time data from different scenarios, the authors build a compelling case for a reformed system that would address the issues of efficient health care delivery through multiple strategies that are aimed at a better organization of providers, team based practice, a reform of the current payment system, accessible electronic medical records and effective information sharing among providers.

Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis by Tom Daschle
Examining the existing health care crisis in the US, the author, a former US Senator builds up a compelling blueprint for reform by developing the concept of a Federal Health Board that would form a non political controlled framework within which the market driven health care system would operate - very much on the same lines as private banks and financial institutions operate today within the guidelines laid down by the Federal Reserve. This would be accompanied by a merging of employers health plans, Medicare and Medicaid and expanding the Federal Employees Health Benefits program such that coverage was available for all. United States is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee medical coverage to all its citizens and the author makes a forceful case for implementing urgently needed changes.

There are many more exciting titles on our shelves so be sure to check back for more books to get you thinking!
- Nita Mathur

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