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Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why…
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Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works (2011)

by Jonathan Gruber

Other authors: Nathan Schreiber (Illustrator)

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I was looking for a book I could share with people who are skeptical about the Obama healthcare plan, and gave this book a read.

It's very good. It explains in cartoons many complicated things in a way that is clear and compelling. There are lots of places where it presents facts that people just don't know well enough (for example, the administrative costs of medicare are WAY lower than any insurance provider).

But:

1. There are a number of places where I almost screamed out "whoa!! slow down!!" For instance, one thing you hear from people who really haven't thought through all this stuf is something like this: "I don't have health care and can't afford it. But I'm healthy (knock wood) and don't need it. I don't think we should be compelled to pay for the health care of others or for ourselves. If I do get sick, I'll just go without care or go to the emergency room." This is one of the most naive things someone can say when they're healthy. People just have no idea what their body will be telling them when they get sick (for the most part, their body will be telling them: Get some help! And if they're not listening to their own body, their loved ones will be compelling them to get help).

This is perhaps THE crucial point about the social psychology of getting sick in America. People don't understand what their own behavior will be; and they have no clue regarding the enormous costs they pass on when they don't get regular care. It's massive. *I* can't afford it (paying for ERs to help people who aren't covered). So please, would you naysayers get some coverage? In ObamaCare, if you genuinely can't afford it, you get credits from the government. This means that you can get regular care and not go to the ER -- you save me money!

The book blows through this problem (the "go it alone" types) in two pages. I was just listening to NPR interview some people in rural Wisconsin, and they said the usual right-wing things about ObamaCare: But I'm afraid that they simply don't know what happens and the massive costs they will accrue: Paid by people like me: ordinary tax payers.

2. A weird thing about this book is that the point of view of the author is a be-suited smart guy with glasses. He just looks like a nerd scientist/professor -- which he is of course (MIT Econ. prof.). The problem is, though, that the persona is just a policy wonk know-it-all. The book really misunderstands its audience. This should be a book that appeals to people who hate "experts."

3. And, of course, ObamaCare is complex. Really, really complex. The problem here is that the book is very quiet on the core reason: ObamaCare is about tossing some profits to the insurance companies so that they will go ahead with this wholesale revision of the American healthcare system.

4. Because it's so complex, in the end, it's really an argument for -- guess what? -- single payer health care. You get to the end of the book, and the whole thing is this massive Rube Goldberg machine.

So, read it and weep. I wish this was the book you could pass on to your conservative relatives, but it really isn't. It goes too fast in the sore points, and presents its claims through a smarty-pants policy wonk who "has all the answers" instead of working through narratives of how regular people live. To be sure, there are gestures in the direction of what I'm talking about, but it's too schematic.
( )
  tuke | Dec 1, 2012 |
Good for teenagers to help them understand what all the fuss is about. Apart from that I think that the comic preaches to the converted. I doubt that anybody that is against the health care reform will pick this up. ( )
  olgalijo | Sep 17, 2012 |
A graphic novel approach to explaining the new health care bill passed by Congress - valuable in that it simplifies the explanations for the various provisions of the bill, but clearly a political tome designed to promote approval of the bill and its provisions. I already was of the opinion that something was better than nothing, but don't know that this book will convince anyone who holds the opposite opinion. ( )
  SherylHendrix | Mar 3, 2012 |
As an information analyst for a major U.S. health insurance company I have an opinion on the need for healthcare reform which I will briefly share in the interest of full disclosure. In a nutshell, I’m for it. I am tired of seeing the costs of medical care for those who cannot or will not obtain insurance passed on to those of us who do have it. When a hospital treats patients who can’t pay, it adds those costs onto the bills of those who have coverage. The insurance company passes the costs on to employers who, in turn, pass them on to us in the form of reduced take-home pay. While I am not necessarily thrilled with what that cockeyed committee called Congress cobbled together I believe it is a step in the right direction.

When I was in college I studied for a while in Mexico. While there I bought several books such as “Futbol Para Principiantes” (translation: Soccer for Beginners) that explained various subjects in a comic book format that made it easy for a marginal Spanish speaker like me to understand what the authors were trying to say. The cartoon format had the dual benefits of forcing the authors to be concise and enabling the readers to absorb ordinarily dry content in an entertaining and easy to understand manner. Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at MIT, has wisely chosen this format to explain to the American public exactly what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is all about.

Gruber's book explains what the ACA will affect all of us; whether we already have employer group or single coverage, Medicare or no coverage at all. It explains what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) believes the financial impact of ACA will be. Most importantly, it explains each of the key elements of the ACA are, why they were include, how they affect us, and when they go into effect. Whether you favor the law or not, it is still very important to understand it so, for this reason alone, I highly recommend this book.

Gruber can hardly be considered an unbiased reporter of the subject being the architect of the Massachusetts health reform law and a key participant in the design of the ACA. While he clearly supports the law he does try to address the arguments expressed by its opponents. I think he could have tried a little harder to provide a balanced view but the main point of the book is to educate us about the ACA, not to debate it.

*Quotations are cited from an advanced reading copy and may not be the same as appears in the final published edition. The review copy of this book was obtained from the publisher via the Amazon Vine Program. Also, the opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. ( )
1 vote Unkletom | Feb 25, 2012 |
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Jonathan Gruberprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schreiber, NathanIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0809053977, Paperback)

A Look Inside Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:46 -0400)

"Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works is a deeply informed, opinionated, immediately accessible explanation of why health care reform is essential, why the legislation Congress passed is our best bet for solving the problem, and why it would be disastrous if we revoked it. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans are against health care reform. Polls also show that the majority of American's simply do not understand what is at stake, how reform works, and what its immediate and long-term consequences will be. Health Care Reform explains the stakes, means, and consequences with the immediacy of comics and the authority that only Jonathan Gruber can bring. And with Nathan Schreibers' illustrations using a visual style reminiscent of the political cartoons of Thomas Nash and Walt Kelly, the book will leave no one in doubt: Americans can no longer afford to be ignorant of the facts. Few experts know more about America's dire need of health care reform than Gruber. And of that short list, he is the only one prepared to enter the pages of a comic book to make the case. To be clear: Gruber is not an expert; he is the expert. An award-winning MIT economist and the director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, he was a key architect of the ambitious health care reform effort in Massachusetts and is a member of the Health Connector Board now implementing it; in 2006 he was named by Modern Healthcare as the nineteenth most powerful person in health care in the United States. In 2008 he was a consultant to the Clinton, Edwards, and Obama presidential campaigns. The national legislation passed by Congress in 2009 derives directly from Grubers' insights learned during the Massachusetts health care debate"-- "A graphic explanation of the PPACA act"--… (more)

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