T.R. Reid, author of “The Healing of America” discusses America’s healthcare system

"We're paying more and getting less," said author T.R. Reid about the U.S. healthcare system at a recent Elon Law forum.

Reid spoke to Elon Law students and faculty on Nov. 17 at an event hosted by the law school and the Elon Law chapter of the Society for Health Law and Bioethics. The event was made possible by support from the Cone Health Foundation.

Author of the New York Times best-seller, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Healthcare,” Reid has spent much of his career researching and writing about healthcare systems around the globe and their differences from the system in place in the U.S.

“All of the other rich democracies provide healthcare for everybody and spend less,” said Reid who has lived – and personally utilized the healthcare systems – in both Japan and the United Kingdom.

It was while living in London with his wife and three children that Reid says he first began to think deeply about differences in healthcare systems. When his daughter’s newly-pierced ears became infected, Reid and his wife went to a hospital near their London home.

“We got very good care and there was not much waiting,” he said. After his daughter was treated, Reid went to take care of the bill only to discover that there was no charge for the medical services. “My wife and I said, ‘Oh, there are different ways to do healthcare.’”

This experience motivated Reid to begin learning about different universal healthcare systems.

“I found various approaches, but they all agree on the same goal,” Reid said. “They think this is a fundamental element of modern decent society.”

His work culminated into the writing of numerous books, published in both English and Japanese, frequent commentary on NPR’s Morning Edition and two PBS Frontline documentaries, “Sick Around the World,” which aired in 2008 and “India–A Second Opinion,” which aired in 2009. His next film, “U.S. Health Care: The Good News” will air on PBS next year.

Elon Law student Daniel Harris, the founder and treasurer of Elon Law’s chapter of the Society for Health Law and Bioethics (SHLB), expressed appreciation for Reid’s visit.

“Bringing in a speaker like Mr. Reid is critical for the organization because it helps draw interest into the field of Health Law generally,” Harris said. “SHLB’s main goal is to make Health Law better known and increase potential interest in the student body. While some of the information Mr. Reid covered was broader than just Health Law, the areas discussed directly affect the future of Health Law in this country.”

Reid, a former attorney and current Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, also discussed perceptions of the healthcare system by average American citizens; his opinion of the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will go before the Supreme Court in March 2012; and some of the possible solutions to the healthcare crisis in America.

“Why would a country as decent, ethical, rich and equitable as the U.S. leave 50 million people without healthcare?” Reid asked those in attendance. “The argument in my book is that it doesn’t have to be this way.”

By Courtney Roller, L’13