Health

T.R. Reid, author of “The Healing of America”  will speak Tuesday evening on the current state of America’s health care system. His talk is part of a series hosted by the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Reid, a former NPR commentator, spoke to WFPL about his global search for the best health care models.

Your book “The Healing of America” is referred to as a “comparative policy analysis.” Can you explain what that is and how it relates to the health care system?

For any organization, company, college or country, if you have problems one way to solve that problem is to go see how some other college or company or country solved the problem. The other rich democracies, countries like us, advanced high tech democracies, they provide health care for everybody. They have better health outcomes in the US and they spend half as much. The US spends twice as much as any other country and we still have 31 million people without health insurance.

When it comes to coverage, quality, cost and choice, how does American measure up?

In coverage, against all the countries like us, we’re the worst. There’s no other country that lets people go without health insurance. Quality on comparative measures…we rank pretty low among the rich countries. We’re better than the poor countries, but compared to Britain, Germany, Japan we rank pretty low on health outcomes. Cost–we’re the highest by far. We pay twice as much per capita  for health care and still leave 31 million people without coverage.

Where is America missing the mark when it comes to our health care system?

All of the other countries made a firm commitment ‘We’re going to cover everybody. We think everybody who’s sick deserves access to a doctor.’ And if you make that choice then you can design a system that covers everybody, which they did. We have never made that commitment and my argument is we should cover everybody and we could cover everybody. I know we could because all the other countries like us did it.

Why aren’t all Americans covered under the Affordable Care Act?

Barack Obama ran for President in 2008 promising to provide health care for every American. But then Obamacare designed this very, very complicated and expensive way to do it, and there wasn’t enough money to cover everybody because of the way they chose to do it. So the Congressional budget office says even if Obamacare works perfectly, which is hasn’t so far, it will still leave 30 million people uninsured in 2020. To me, that’s a national disgrace. No other country lets people go without health insurance.

How do we fix America’s health care system?

The first thing we need to do is make a moral commitment to cover everybody and we’ve never done that. It doesn’t have to be socialized medicine. Germany covers everybody with private insurance, private doctors and private hospitals and they still spend much less than we do.  We could do it through government, we could do it through private insurance, but you need to commit to cover everybody and once we do that we’ll get it done.