The Healing of America

By T. R. Reid

On Episode 35 of this B-Time podcast, Dr. Paul Grundy recommended a book titled: The Healing of America by T.R. Reid.  While the book is 10 years old, it still provides valuable information on the workings of healthcare across the world.  The premise of this book is twofold.  Firstly, the author lays out a case that covering all citizens as a moral issue.  Secondly, Mr. Reid believes that rather than replicating another country’s system exactly, that we can learn from the mistakes and best practices of others. 

On the first issue, the author shares stories of people that have fallen through the cracks in the American Healthcare system and as a result, have suffered greatly and even died.  Reid repeatedly makes the case that Americans must look past the cost issue and provide universal coverage rather than having many different programs with different criteria for qualification.

Reid’s approach to the second premise – that we can learn from other country’s systems is unique in that Reid becomes a patient in each system.  By placing himself in the middle of the healthcare delivery system, he gets perspectives from healthcare providers, government officials and other consumers as to their opinion as to how well the system works.  As a patient he gets and relates a firsthand view to the reader as to how the system truly works.  Throughout the book and his world travels, Reid asks for opinions on his shoulder.  Does he need surgery or not?

As Reid takes us around the world and explains and names the various models, he points out that the US has several different models:  The Bismarck System for the employed; the Canadian Medicare system (yes, the Canadians coined the term Medicare first) and the Beveridge system for vets, known as the VA system.

Although have been in the health insurance industry a long time, I enjoyed refreshing my perspective on these other systems and dispelling some of the myths that go along with each system.  Healthcare leaders should ensure they have a deep grounding in all models that are offered in the US and make sure they are staying in touch with updates to other systems.