Summer Reading: Health care

While the arrival of summer has many of us slowing down to a more leisurely pace, in Washington, the debate on health care reform is quickly shifting into overdrive. Several Congressional committees have taken up consideration of health care legislation, with the goal of having completed mark-ups of legislation prior to the July 4th recess. For those  looking for a better handle on some of the key ideas and issues driving the health care debate, here are a few suggested readings to peruse online or download for those quiet hours on the beach:

  • Atul Gawande’s recent New Yorker article, “The Cost Conundrum”, has been widely cited by policy experts and policymakers alike, including President Obama in his major speech to the American Medical Association. Gawande uses the example of  McAlester County, Texas to show that higher spending on health care isn’t correlated with better health outcomes. Gawande makes the case for a system of delivering care in which doctors collaborate to increase prevention and improve the quality of care in a cost-effective manner, as is occurring currently at the Mayo Clinic and several other innovative locations across the country.
  • Gawande and others, notably Obama Budget director Peter Orszag, have been strongly influenced by the Dartmouth study that demonstrates the great variation across regions in Medicare spending and calls for comparative effectiveness research as a major strategy for containing health care costs (see our related blog post on this subject).
  • For a good lay-person’s introduction to the key terms and concepts in the health care reform debate, see the briefs compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • Finding the money to pay for universal coverage proposals  is a thorny problem for proponents of reform. The health policy specialists at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have prepared a series of reports examining various options for raising revenues and curtailing expenditures in the health care system.
  • To understand how opponents of the Administration’s health care plans are framing the debate as a “Washington takeover to deny you care”, read the strategy memo prepared by Republican pollster and consultant Frank Luntz in The Language of Health Care 2009“.
  • Nina Owcharenko of the free market-oriented Heritage Foundation authored this web memo, “A Principled Path to Rational Health Care Reform”, arguing for greater equity in the tax treatment of health care and state-based reforms as the necessary cornerstones of a reformed system.
  • If you are looking for more in-depth treatment of the health care debate, Jonathan Cohn’s book, Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis—and the People Who Pay the Price is a compelling and readable exploration of  the nation’s health care crisis, weaving together individual stories with broader policy discussions and proposals.

If you have other must-read suggestions on health care, please let us know by leaving a comment.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

3 thoughts on “Summer Reading: Health care

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