Great Books in Health Policy

28 Apr

You may have noticed that I’ve begun occasionally including links to products available for purchase through You may also have noticed that I like to send you in the direction of good resources online. Well, now, I’m going to let the two intersect in what I am calling “Great Books in Health Policy.” I don’t want to claim that this will be a regular thing, because, well, we all know what happened to my “Lazy Sundays” pieces, but I do think that it is impossible for a blog about the health care system–especially one as complex as ours here in the U.S.–to be as thorough as it needs to be. So, for those of you who are inclined to learn more, I’ll be giving you links to great books.

It would probably make sense for me to start with some foundational volumes, but I don’t have the time to create a correspondence course without charging tuition, so you’ll just have to take some of the initiative yourself. I will try, however, to give you an overview–and in some cases an actual review–of the books I recommend. I will also try to indicate how accessible the text is using a 5 point Wonk Scale. If you’ve never studied this topic on your own, I’d avoid jumping straight to the level 5s.  (As an aside, if you are an author or publisher who would like to have me review your book on the blog, please email me directly.)

I’m starting today with two suggestions. One is a primer on the U.S. health care system and the other is an excellent look at the role of the presidency and politics in attempts to enact health reform in the U.S. Health Care in America: A Systems Approach by Leiyu Shi and Douglas Singh is a must-read if you’re trying to understand the current U.S. health care system. Granted, much is likely to change with the enactment of health reform, but this text covers the basic structure of health care finance, delivery, and consumption in both the public and private sectors. I’d give it a 3 on the Wonk Scale, because it is a textbook, but that shouldn’t discourage you from reading it.

 The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office is written by two of the best health politics and policy folks around: David Blumenthal and Jim Morone. If you’re looking to place President Obama’s leadership (or lack thereof) into proper historical context, this book is the place to start. Blumenthal and Morone trace the history of presidents and health reform beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt and continuing all the way through George W. Bush. What makes this book especially is that Blumenthal is a physician and Morone is a political scientist. Thus, two very different but complementary perspectives are presented in the book. I give The Heart of Power a 2 on the Wonk Scale, because while it is a pretty detailed exploration of the presidency and health reform, it’s superbly written and that makes it easily digestible for both scholars and laypersons.

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Posted by on April 28, 2010 in Good Reading


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