[UCP Books]: Health Care for Some: Rights and Rationing in the United States since 1930

 “In the American political debate, everybody condemns the notion of ‘rationing’ health care. But Beatrix Hoffman’s meticulous history shows that rationing—by income, age, employment, etc.—has been, and remains, a central element of America’s medical system.  She demonstrates that our various attempts at reform over the decades have kept the rationing mechanisms firmly in place.”

T. R. Reid, author of The Healing of America

Health Care for Some
Rights and Rationing in the United States since 1930
by Beatrix Hoffman

Publication Date: October 1, 2012 978-0-226-34803-2
UK Publication Date: October 8, 2012 $30.00 / £19.50

Though in its landmark decision this year, the Supreme Court upheld the most controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the debate over health care in America is not likely to be silenced any time soon, especially with the Presidential race now in full swing. Consequently, the need for a rational, level-headed guide to the issues at the center of the debate is more essential than ever. Health Care for Some fulfills precisely this need. In it, Beatrix Hoffman explains that up until now in the United States we have had only one right to health care—the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act, which guaranteed our right to receive emergency care, regardless of our ability to pay. Enacted in 1986, even this singular right is very recent. As Hoffman goes on to illustrate, the consequence of this refusal to adopt an overall right to health care is that our system has come to consist of a particularly American type of rationing.

Health Care for Some reveals that the haphazard way the US system allocates medical services—using income, race, region, insurance coverage, and many other factors—has created a disorganized, illogical, and powerful form of rationing. And unlike rationing in most countries, which is intended to keep costs down, rationing in the United States has actually led to increased costs, creating a fee-for-service model that has resulted in the most expensive health care system in the world. While most histories of US health care emphasize failed policy reforms, Health Care for Some looks at the system from the ground up in order to examine how rationing is experienced by ordinary Americans—from soldiers’ pregnant wives to survivors of Hurricane Katrina—and consequently reveals how experiences of rationing have led to claims for a right to health care. By taking this approach, Hoffman puts a much-needed human face on a topic that is too often dominated by talking heads.

Beatrix Hoffman is professor in the Department of History at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of The Wages of Sickness: The Politics of Health Insurance in Progressive America.
She is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at 773-702-4216 or cadams@press.uchicago.edu for more information.


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