The week before last, I watched President Obama deliver an address to a joint session of Congress in a bid to revive the economy with another stimulus package. The president, as our country’s quarterback, finds himself fourth and long with the need to call a play with a high probability for success. Almost two years earlier to the day (on Sept. 9, 2009), the same man stood in the same place before many of the same political leaders. “We did not come here just to clean up a crisis,” the president said. “We came here to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future—and that is the issue of health care.”
The intersection of the worlds of politics and economics in health care is not episodic, my friend and Webster University colleague, James Brasfield writes in his new book, Health Policy: The Decade Ahead. As a political scientist, the author has studied and dissected the health policy in the U.S. The result is a book which gives a spot-on overview of our U.S. health care system and outlines the challenges we will be facing in the decade to come. Brasfield traces the origins of the 46-year-old Medicare and Medicaid programs, and analyzes the policy options currently under consideration. Central to the future of these programs is the sharp division of public and elite opinion about the role of government in the financing of health services. The book explains the central perspectives in the coming debate about Medicare and Medicaid.
The Accountable Care Act of 2010 was the most significant health legislation since the passage of Medicare/Medicaid. The book depicts the policy ideas and political dynamics that led to enactment of the law, and offers a frame of reference for understanding the continuing controversy surrounding it. Opinion polls show many Americans do not understand critical components of the law. That’s where Brasfield’s expertise in health policy shines with his clear and concise précis of the legislation that helps the reader achieve an informed view of this issue.
Providing health care services in the U.S. is one of our country’s biggest industries with about one in every six dollars spent on health care. That’s a pretty big piece of America’s pie and one that is too important to be debated, voted on and changed without all available information. Health Policy: The Decade Ahead brings to the forefront all the questions that need to be asked and then answers each one of them by including chapters on health care costs, and systems in other countries, such as Britain and Canada. Brasfield also looks at the decade ahead as one in which public officials will make critical decisions about the future.
Health Policy: The Decade Ahead seeks to help inform citizens about the choices and the impact of various policy options on their lives and the lives of their children. For me and anyone else whose families will be coming to age in the next decades it is a must-read, with what we need to know to help change and hopefully enhance not only our own futures, but those of generations to come.
Benjamin Ola. Akande is Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology and chief of corporate partnerships at Webster University. Follow him on Twitter: @Benjamin_Akande