From Publishers Weekly
The United States is alone among industrial democracies in having no national health insurance system, even as polls show large majorities of Americans favoring one. This comprehensive and convincing academic study illuminates this great American political conundrum. Gordon, a historian and author of New Deals: Business, Labor and Politics in America, 1920-35, examines reform efforts from the First World War to the Clinton health plan fiasco, and critiques scholarly explanations of the failure of more ambitious national healthcare initiatives. He explores America's idiosyncratic conception of healthcare as quasi-contractual social insurance and consumer commodity, not a right of citizenship, and its legacy in our ungainly system of private employment-based insurance. He traces the abandonment of national health insurance by its natural allies in the labor movement, which concentrated on protecting its private benefits, and among reformers, who settled for piecemeal programs that serve a portion of the population but undermine the rationale for universal coverage. Most of all, he points to the subservience of the American political system to economic interests. Time and again, he finds, the private healthcare industry has used its financial clout to "throttle" popular reforms through bare-knuckled lobbying, political donations, and PR campaigns associating national health insurance with Communism and vilifying successful Canadian and European systems. The result is a muddled system driven by the contradictory demands of doctors, hospitals, insurers and employers, one that generates the world's highest medical bills while leaving millions uninsured. Gordon synthesizes an enormous amount of scholarly research into a readable and compelling account of the debate over healthcare policy, one that poses larger questions about the failings of American democracy.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"This is a sophisticated, impassioned, and well-documented analysis of the failures of twentieth-century American health reform efforts."--David Rosner, Business History Review
"[A] brilliantly recounted, thoughtful, and persuasive argument, not for simple explanations, but for a complex, on-the-ground discussion of what it was in the United States that made universal health insurance 'dead on arrival.'. . . [This book] is impeccably and impressively researched, drawing extensively on governmental and private archives."--Rosemary A. Stevens, Bulletin of the History of Medicine
"Another autopsy of the failure to implement a US national health plan? Yes, but Dead on Arrival
is more interesting, informative, and compelling than others. Its strength lies in the integration of multiple social, economic, and political perspectives within a historical context to address the question, why no national health insurance?"--Bernard S. Bloom, Journal of the American Medical Association
"A welcome addition to a large literature on the modern United States medical system. . . . [It] illuminates the political deadlock and the institutional rigidity of the American system and offers a cogent explanation for why reform has been so intractable in health care throughout the last hundred years."--Declan O'Reilly, Enterprise & Society
"A treasure trove of information for anyone seriously wishing to tackle this issue."--Tom Gallagher, San Francisco Bay Guardian
"At a time of renewed popular and scholarly debate over America's exceptional welfare state, students of American public affairs will find much of value in Gordon's timely book."--Jacob S. Hacker, Political Science Quarterly