Book Review: The Cure

Dr. David Gratzer is a psychiatrist who has worked both in Canada and in the United States.  His first book, Code Blue: Reviving Canada’s Health Care System, was an award-winning prescription for the long waits and poor satisfaction currently plaguing Canadian patients.  In his current book, The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care, Dr. Gratzer turns his attention to the troubles of the healthcare system on our side of the border.

Dr. Gratzer is certainly no apologist for American medicine.  He is quite frank about the problems we face, from skyrocketing costs, to the number of uninsured, to the increasing regulation of medical practice.  But Dr. Gratzer also trumpets the enormous achievements of American healthcare.  As he documents, nowhere in the world is one more likely to survive breast cancer, less likely to wait a long time for elective surgery, or more likely to spend more than 20 minutes with one’s doctor.

Ironically, faced with our current challenges American politicians increasingly look to Canada and to Europe for inspiration, even as Canadian and European governments are struggling with the consequences of their government-run healthcare systems.  Dr. Gratzer highlights the serious challenges in these countries, and how they are trying to inject competition and incentives into their healthcare models.

The Cure is a well researched and very readable analysis of what’s wrong with our healthcare system, and how to fix it.  Our nation tends to reject political extremes and is suspicious of revolutionary change.  The government-sponsored healthcare reform proposed by President Clinton’s administration met with widespread resistance.  On the other extreme, the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman in 2001 proposed a free-market reform of healthcare that would have eliminated government’s role in medicine.  Friedman’s plan would be politically impossible in the current climate.  Compared to these two extremes, Dr. Gratzer’s prescriptions are quite moderate, and therefore potentially achievable.  His proposals include adding competition to Medicare, reforming the FDA, and allowing patients to buy health insurance from other states.

For anyone interested in healthcare from a national point of view, The Cure is mandatory reading.

Tangential Miscellany:

I wish you a very happy Independence Day!

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