Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two great policy books

I want to give a shout out to two great policy books I recently finished reading in the past two weeks-T.R. Reid's The Healing of America and George Shultz and John Shoven's Putting Our House in Order. Both are non-ideological, and call for a transformation of America's entitlement programs and health care management systems.

Putting our House in Order examines the country's long-term fiscal danger zones-social security and health care reform. The authors (both affiliated with Stanford University and the Hoover Institution) give a remarkably even handed analysis on the long-term challenges facing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The authors examine policy proposals given by previous experts and policy groups (both liberal and conservative) and provide incremental and common sense policy proposals that partisans in both parties can agree to. Putting Our House in Order is a well-written book that does not leave the reader lost in a dense maze of policy proposals, but rather helps inform and educate interested readers.

The Healing of America is written by Washington Post correspondent T.R, Reid who asks why the United States is the only first world country to not provide health care to all its citizens. Reid helpfully notes that the United States has four health care systems, the first being the Veterans Administration (similar to Great Britain with government ownership of hospitals)-and one that my very conservative Republican grandfather used and loved, despite his dislike for socialized medicine); Medicare (similar to Canda's universal coverage program, and used and loved by my very conservative grandmother who thought FDR was a socialist); private insurance (similar to Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland's system, although these countries much like Mitt Rommey's inspired Massachusetts program, require all citizens to have health insurance), and no insurance coverage that 48 million Americans current hold (like most third world nations). With his bum right shoulder, Reid explores health-care systems around the world in an effort to understand different health care systems, and finds an array of possible policy options that Americans of all political stripes can love. Personally, I'm in favor of mandated insurance coverage for all Americans, with the government providing vouchers for all citizens to obtain basic health care coverage and to provide catastrophic coverage as well, indexed to income and age. That said, I think that given the experience of Medicare, the government would be better off providing extensive regulation and oversight of private health insurance, setting a level of minimum coverage that insurers much provide to all citizens, regardless of income, and a stronger push toward preventive health care to cut long-term costs. Seriously, read Reid's work-is an excellent book.

Finally, for those who haven't read it yet, David Goldhill's Atlantic article is a must read regarding America's current health insurance system.

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