Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal
Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia Campus,
Virginia Commonwealth University.
Every fall the Census Bureau announces the latest data on uninsured
persons in the United States—usually a million or two more than the
year before. We’ve been watching these announcements for 25 years, long
enough to see the number of uninsured nearly double. Most years, politicians
respond that the “crisis” demands urgent action.
These ritual pronouncements are part of the strange dance of US health
policy. Virtually all agree that our health insurance system is broken and
getting worse. Yet reform proposals from both political parties are ever feebler.
Where once President Nixon called for universal coverage through a mandate
requiring employers to pay for insurance, today President Bush offers tax
credits that would cover perhaps 5 million of the uninsured. Where President
Truman and his successors fought for national health insurance, Senator Kerry
hoped to cut the number of uninsured to 17 million by expanding Medicaid and
offering subsidies for private insurance.
Himmelstein DU, Woolhandler S. Health Systems. JAMA. 2005;293(20):2537-2541. doi:10.1001/jama.293.20.2538