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And now a word from a connoiseur of world healthcare systems...

October 15, 2009 |  5:34 pm

Reid T.R. Reid's a busy guy. First the journalist and author schleps from one country to another in his quest to assess the world's healthcare systems -- and their treatment options for his aching shoulder. Then he schleps from one interview and appearance to the next in his quest to discuss his findings -- and the book that resulted.

That book, "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care," explains in highly readable fashion how other countries manage to offer healthcare to their citizens -- and what those citizens can expect.

Reid wrote last month in a Newsweek article that synopsized his book quite efficiently:

"The design of any country's health-care system involves political, medical, and economic decisions. But the primary issue for any health-care system is, as President Obama made clear last week, a moral question: should a rich society provide health care to everyone who needs it? If a nation answers yes to that moral question, it will build a health-care system like the ones in Britain, Germany, Canada, France, and Japan, where everybody is covered. If a nation doesn't decide to provide universal coverage, then you're likely to end up with a system where some people get the finest medical care on earth in the finest hospitals, and tens of thousands of others are left to die for lack of care. Without the moral commitment, in other words, you end up with a system like America's."

The book lays out the precise differences among other nations' systems, not just the ones mentioned above. (His recount of the Ayurvedic approach in India is especially riveting.) And those differences are considerable even among countries that try very hard to get it right, with "universal healthcare" being markedly different than a universal approach. 

Whether you're primed to agree with Reid's bleak assessment of the U.S. healthcare system or not, his perspective -- both global and intimate -- makes for worthwhile reading as the nation tries to come to terms with its current and future approach to healthcare.

(Today's news story: Healthcare triumph gives way to heightened battle)

If you're looking for Reid giving a quick primer on the topic, here he is recently on NPR's "Fresh Air", in a question-and-answer article on, and in a podcast from Stanford School of Medicine. As noted, he's been busy.

Then there's the "Frontline" documentary that spawned it all: "Sick Around the World." And of course, the book itself.

-- Tami Dennis  

Photo: T.R. Reid.Credit: "Frontline" / PBS