How U.S. health care compares around the world

doctor wears a stethoscope
How does medical care in the United States compare with that available abroad?
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In the lead-up to passage of the Affordable Care Act, one of the voices advocating for change belonged to T.R. Reid.

Reid, a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, used a sore shoulder (the result of an old Navy injury) as a passport to the health-care systems of different countries around the world. Treatments he either heard recommended or underwent ranged from major surgery in the United States to massage and herbal therapy in India. The result was an influential book, "The Healing of America."

In it, he was able to debunk some popular myths about other countries' health care. From a review in the Washington Post:

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

During last year's Republican presidential primary season, candidate Rudy Giuliani succinctly captured what millions of Americans think about health care abroad. "These countries that say they provide universal coverage — they pay a price for it, you know," Giuliani told his audience. "They do it by rationing care, by long waiting lines, and by limiting, or I should say eliminating a patient's choice."

T.R. Reid has done a service to his nation by showing in his latest book just how uninformed this conventional wisdom is. Based on his own experience and research, "The Healing of America" is both readable and informative.

Reid's book concluded that health care in the United States was lagging behind that of other industrialized nations. Will the Affordable Care Act change that?


One Injury, 10 Countries: A Journey in Health Care
"The Healing of America" blends subjective and objective into a seamless indictment of our own disastrous system, an eloquent rebuttal against the arguments used to defend it, and appealing alternatives for fixing it. (New York Times)

The Healing of America -- by T.R. Reid
Excerpt: "In the richest country on earth, there are children going to bed at night with an earache, with a toothache, with an asthma attack that leaves them gasping for the next breath, because their parents don't dare face a doctor bill. In other developed countries, those sick children would see a doctor and get the medicine they need regardless of the family's income ... When the World Health Organization rated the national health care systems of 191 countries in terms of 'fairness,' the United States ranked fifty-fourth ...." (Daily Kos)