Thursday, April 23, 2015

Best book so far explaining America's health care problems

Just read a book I highly recommend if you'd like to really understand what happened and is happening with the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, commonly called "ObamaCare." Steven Brill, who's about as nonpartisan as one can get in this era of acute polarization in politics, has written a book every thinking American should read: America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight To Fix Our Broken Health Care System.

In recent history, fixing the health care system and getting over 40 million Americans to help support the health care infrastructure by purchasing insurance before they need it, goes back to efforts by President Nixon, a Republican. His attempt was derailed because he became lost in the Watergate scandal. The late Wilbur Mills, a Democratic Congressman from Arkansas, was helping Nixon get something done on his health care solution, but he was also side-tracked. His distraction was the infamous episode in Washington's Tidal Basin with an Argentinian stripper who went by the name Fanne Fox.

Prior to that crash, FDR, followed by President Truman, all tried to provide a pathway to universal health coverage for all Americans. The latest - and most successful effort - prior to "ObamaCare," was when then Massachusetts's Governor Mitt Romney's put together a program requiring everyone to purchase health insurance in that state. Romney partnered with the late Massachusetts's Senator Ted Kennedy to get it done. In other words, we had, in this effort, a Republican and a Democrat working together; amazing by today's Congressional standards.

Brill covers all the lobbying, particularly that done by the pharmaceutical manufacturer's lobbyists, and how Medicare is prohibited from negotiating prices for the Part D drug program, causing seniors to pay far more for drugs than their counterparts do in Canada, Mexico and the rest of the world. He points out that, in terms of GNP, Great Britain spends half of what America does on health care and achieves better outcomes. Likewise for much of the rest of the developed world. Why does America lag behind? Read about all the lobbying and monetary influence that buys self-interested legislative decisions in Washington: Brill covers it all.

Terry Gross of National Public Radio's Fresh Air recently interviewed the author of America's Bitter Pill and you can listen to and/or download that visit by clicking here.  Click on the little arrow next to the NPR logo or in a blue circle on the NPR page to hear the interview. As with nearly all of Gross's interviews, this one is excellent, as she extracts from Brill the key points the book makes. Definitely worth a listen.

Bottom line: If you read one book this year on health care financing, read this one. For more information and/or to order the book, click here to go to Amazon.