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The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  6,434 ratings  ·  768 reviews
In The Healing of America, New York Times bestselling author T. R. Reid shows how all the other industrialized democracies have achieved something the United States can’t seem to do: provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost.

In his global quest to find a possible prescription, Reid visits wealthy, free market, industrialized democracies like our own—including
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published August 20th 2009 by Penguin Press (first published 2009)
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Alex Templeton
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was one of the most infuriating books I've ever read. This was not because the book was bad, but because the points it laid out were so smart that I can't believe our policy makers and our population can really be so ignorant as to, well, ignore them. Reid visited different countries around the world that offer universal health care to their citizens. He discovers, in a nutshell, that not only are these systems not "socialist", but that they are far more efficient and cost-effective than an ...more
Sep 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, medicine
As I set out to write something about this book, I realize that I don't have much input or interest in reviewing nonfiction books. Or maybe just nonfiction books whose primary goal is to educate the reader on some specific issue. That's what The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care is, and Reid does an excellent job of achieving this goal. And by the way, when are we going to decide whether health care is two words or one? This indecisiveness, similar to ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was published in 2009. yet the author’s major findings still apply today. Strongly recommend for anyone interested in U.S healthcare reform.

The author T.R. Reid travelled to a number of developed countries, France, Germany, Japan, UK, Canada etc. to personally experience their respective healthcare systems, then compare and contrast with that of U.S.
Unlike U.S, these countries all offer some form of universal healthcare (UHC) that covers everyone, and yet they all spend remarkably l
Julie Christine
Aug 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Fresh Air podcast
The upside of reading this book is that you will walk away with a clearer understanding of how different models of health care work, how massive reforms in health care have been undertaken recently and with success, and you will have the knowledge to debunk myths many Americans hold about health care systems outside of the United States.

The downside of reading this book is that you may walk away and want to keep on walking- directly north to Canada, or to don your fins and cross the Atlantic or
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"On September 11, 2001, some three thousand Americans were killed by terrorists; our country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But that same year, and every year since then, some twenty thousand Americans died because they couldn’t get health care. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt every year because of medical bills. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country either."

This is pr
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a friend a couple of years ago. After months and months of debating friends about the necessity of "Obamacare" (The PPACA or ACA for short), I decided it was finally time to pick up this book and get an idea of what others were doing in the health care arena. I know what I don't like about our system- cost, lack of access for those who don't have insurance or money. And, I know what I like- the availability of doctors and medicine and procedures as long as you ...more
Sep 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: random-politics
For those of us who have already reached the conclusion that the health care system in this country is laughable (in a devastating way), this little masterpiece beautifully clarifies what we already know. Our system is overly complex, sickeningly unequal and discriminatory, and grossly expensive. As a wealthy country in the industrialized world, we are the only nation that has not adopted universal health care of some kind. We are the only nation that allows for-profit insurance companies result ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book by reading the author's other book, A Fine Mess, about tax systems around the world. The conclusion here is similar: US healthcare system as a whole is the worst out of rich countries, on pretty much all dimensions. But that's not new. Where this book shines is adding nuance and technical understanding of benefits and shortcomings of each system. If your view about US healthcare is like mine - shaped by late-night talk show jokes and attention-grabbing headlines - this is ...more
Ana T
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
The most important conclusion of the book goes ignored by its own author: almost all systems presented in the book are either flat out broke (UK, France) or a ticking time bomb squeezing doctors' pay or service availability to the limit (Japan, Canada). The only system that seems financially healthy is the Swiss - and it is not a coincidence that it is (by far) the most expensive of the ones analyzed. And I am saying this only using information from the book itself.

In addition, not only it ignor
Matthew Hall
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: policy, 2017, nonfiction
This book was so great. With the conversation around how to fix healthcare in America ascendant, this book was a really great resource for thinking about changes to our system. TR Reid (back in 2009, pre-ACA days) visited seven different countries to investigate how they run their healthcare systems, and to think about ways in which we might overhaul the American healthcare system, which is both the most expensive in the world, and produces society-wide results which are middling at best, even w ...more
Preston Kutney
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm probably just a biased Canadian, but here is an excerpt from a great Malcolm Gladwell article that describes my opinion of the U.S. health care system:

"One of the great mysteries of political life in the United States is why Americans are so devoted to their health-care system. Six times in the past century—during the First World War, during the Depression, during the Truman and Johnson Administrations, in the Senate in the nineteen-seventies, and during the Clinton years—efforts have been
Thomas Ray
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Healing of America, T.R. Reid, 2009, 277pp., ISBN 9781594202346, Dewey 362.10973, Library-of-Congress RA395.A3R435

More than 85% of Americans say medical care is a basic human right. Americans /wrongly/ think anyone who needs care gets it. Each year, 22,000 Americans die of treatable ailments. pp. 217-218 (Also American Journal of Public Health, Dec. 2009, p. 2294 )

Prof. Uwe Reinhart wrote a /Journal of the American Medical Association/ article in 199
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Honestly, this book was just! so! good! and, to me, kind of life-changing. Not many people in the U.S. *actually* understand how healthcare works and we have all these misguided beliefs about how other nations that provide universal healthcare (and, it should be noted, whose healthcare systems are ranked high above our own) practice "socialized medicine" that are "wasteful", and result in "long waiting lists" and "limited choice". Not so! While I was angered and frustrated when exposed to the tr ...more
Nov 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
My star ratings are always pretty pointless and arbitrary, but especially so here, mostly because my feelings of this book are extremely conflicted.

Normal review

A great high level overview/primer of healthcare systems both in the US and globally. Somewhat outdated with regards to the US, China, and other minor details. But his high level metrics for evaluating health care systems (focusing on choice, coverage, cost, quality) are sound and still applicable. Furthermore, most of the major flaws he
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Reid examines America's health system within the context of the health systems of France, Germany, Japan, the UK and Canada (all universal systems). He also briefly looks at out-of-pocket systems, i.e. the third world and uninsured Americans. As a political scientist, my take on these issues is pretty much always institutional and political culture. Reid's jumping off point is the moral question "Should we guarantee medical treatment to everyone who needs it?" The answer to this question in a fi ...more
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for all Americans, especially the policymakers among us.

In my view, the most succinct way to summarize the problems with health care in our country is misplaced incentives.

For insurance companies (and many hospitals), it's the profit motive--it completely skews what should be the whole point of health care, to help people be healthy. For example, 40,000 Americans die every year because they do not have health insurance, either because it's too expensive or
Jenny Leigh
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
I started to read this book because I am currently studying comparative health care in Japan and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of its health care system. Reid's book was a bit disappointing for my purposes; it is clearly written by a journalist rather than someone who has worked in the health care field (or who even has above-average familiarity with health care systems). After establishing the primary models of global health care systems, he simply refers back to the model that he obser ...more
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I convinced my book club to read this some months (years) ago. I feel like it should be required reading for any thinking American. It's actually quite an entertaining book, though you'd think a journey through the world's health care systems would be a snore. T. R. Reid, a longtime journalist with an affable, slightly rumpled on-air persona (the book was also reshaped as a Frontline special) takes an ailing shoulder to numerous countries for possible treatment. In very accessible terms, he desc ...more
Charlie Bray
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A sober review of the financial and health outcomes of healthcare systems around the world. I enjoyed the fact that the author, however he felt about the issues at hand, refrained from being moralizing and instead implored the reader to observe the facts and question why things must be the way they are in the US system. And by far my favorite aspect of the book was the author's running theme of dispelling the popular mythology of universal healthcare systems with nonprofit financing: that these ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OUTSTANDING. This book was so well written, so easy to understand, and so informative. I've always wondered how other industrialized, capitalist nations manage to make their healthcare systems work and this book explains it clearly using different countries as examples. Reid also dismantles all the garbage excuses we come up with about why "it would never work in the US." A fascinating, often enraging, sometimes depressing, and thoroughly engaging work. ...more
C. Scott
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really excellent bit of comparative analysis. I wish books like this existed for every subject. Reid takes the reader for a global tour of how healthcare works in other countries. The American healthcare system is frankly a disgrace. In the eyes of other developed nations we are a laughingstock. It is a scandal that the richest nation on earth can't find a way to meaningfully address this problem.

Thanks to this book I now have a much clearer understanding of the most popular national healthca
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Among developed countries, America is a laughingstock when it comes to health care. Our pathetic system is ridiculously expensive—all for less coverage, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, more death for treatable illnesses, and more bankruptcy as a result of medical bills (people in other countries are horrified by this cruel fact of American life). Why is this?

1. Universal coverage is a moral issue that America has never addressed head on; politicians always make this out to be an
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this a few years ago and decided to re-read it since health care in America continues to be debated. Reid does a good job of explaining health care systems around the world. He says "There are some standard building blocks of health care system architecture that all developed countries (except the United States) have agreed on. By studying the blueprints and looking at these common principle, we can learn some important lessons about fixing the problems in our own health care system." I a ...more
Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Read. This. Book.

It's a quick read, so quick you won't believe the amount of information it contains. It's also an easy read. With the central framing device of visiting individual countries to see their recommended course of treatment for a bum shoulder, Reid avoids a lot of dry fact-finding that might plague other books of its kind. Along the way he recounts the health care history of each country (France, Germany, England, Japan, Canada, and India) as well as outlining major points about hea
Aug 21, 2009 rated it liked it
The Healing of America is a quick tromp through the health care systems of several foreign countries, including Canada, France, Japan, and Britain. Author T.R. Reid, using an old Navy shoulder injury as a common device for his worldwide tour, seeks to categorize and inform the reader about how every other industrialized country (and he repeatedly emphasizes America's sad exceptionalism in this regard) tackled the problem of universal health care coverage, and the challenges each system will face ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent discussion of what health care looks like around the world (spoiler alert: not all of it is socialized medicine - but much of it is cheaper and more equitably distributed). Only the U.S. spends 20% of cost going to paperwork (which doesn't actually help people heal). (Taiwan = 2%, Canada = 6%). Only the U.S. has made the ethical decision to allow people to die. ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Reid researches how universal health care works in half a dozen different countries, exploding the myth of "American exceptionalism." The U.S. does NOT have the "best health care in the world" by any measure: not outcomes, not life span, not cost, not number of people covered. Reid points out that every other developed country except the US has answered the question: is health care a human right? with "yes."

In the US, about 20,000 people a year die of treatable conditions because they don't hav
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I realized how persuaded I was by this book at a recent dinner with a number of our friends in which a few of them expressed decidedly critical views of the new healthcare law. I had just finished this book earlier that afternoon and thus was undoubtedly under its influence, but I kept thinking how I have never read anything or heard anyone argue as persuasively in defense of our nation's current healthcare system as TR Reid does against it.

And I was not just persuaded by it. I learned so much a
Aug 25, 2009 marked it as to-read
Okay, I fess up--I haven't read this book yet, but I heard Terry Gross interviewing the author on NPR's Fresh Air last night, and it sounds fascinating. Reid, a Washington Post correspondent, set out to examine health care systems around the world to demystify American fears of socialized medicine, health care rationing, and lack of choice.

Using his bum shoulder as an example (he broke it many years ago in the Navy, had it surgically repaired with a steel pin, and is now suffering pain and lack
Stephen Simpson
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wavered between four-stars and five-stars. Quality-wise, it's probably four-stars. It is well-researched, well-documented, concise, enjoyable to read, and avoids a lot of the irritating pitfalls of "cause-head" books (demonizing the opposition, writing hagiographies for the good guys, presenting misleading one-sided arguments). All of that said, I'm not sure how re-readable it will be and to me that is a big factor in five stars.

In any case, I think it merits five stars for the fact it is impor
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T.R. Reid is a reporter, documentary film correspondent and author. He is also a frequent guest on NPR's Morning Edition. Through his reporting for The Washington Post, his syndicated weekly column, and his light-hearted commentary from around the world for National Public Radio, he has become one of America’s best-known foreign correspondents.

Reid, a Classics major at Princeton University, served

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171 likes · 47 comments
“The Universal Laws of Health Care Systems:

1. "No matter how good the health care in a particular country, people will complain about it"
2. "No matter how much money is spent on health care, the doctors and hospitas will argue that it is not enough"
3. "The last reform always failed”
“A lot of what we "know" about other nations' approach to health care is simply myth.” 5 likes
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