Excerpt: 'The Healing of America,' by T.R. Reid

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care

It's a topic that has dominated the headlines and President Obama's time for months now: health care in America.

While the president's plan has recently come under fire from Republicans and voters alike, author T.R. Reid took a tour of other countries to explore their answers to the health care conundrum and find out how the U.S. could learn from their shortcomings and successes.

By talking to experts, from government officials to doctors, Reid discovered inspiration in the ways some countries can give their people quality health care at an affordable cost.

Read an excerpt of "The Healing of America" below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.

VIDEO: Excerpt: The Healing of America, by T.R. Reid

A Quest for Two Cures

Mrs. Rama came sweeping into my hospital room with the haughty grandeur of a Brahmin empress, wearing a salmon pink sari and leading a retinue of assistants, interpreters, and equipment bearers. It wasn't exactly medical equipment they were carrying, because Mrs. Rama wasn't exactly a doctor. Still, her professional services were considered an essential element of the medical regimen at India's famous Arya Vaidya Chikitsalayam, the Mayo Clinic of traditional Indian medicine.

Indeed, Mrs. Rama's diagnostic work is covered by Indian medical insurance. As she set up her equipment—on a painted wooden board, she carefully arranged a collection of shells, rocks, and statuettes of

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Hindu gods—Mrs. Rama told me that she was connected to the clinic's Department of Yajnopathy, an ancient Indian specialty that roughly equates to astrology. Her medical role was to ascertain my place in the cosmos; in that way, she could determine whether the timing was propitious for me to be healed. Any fool could see, she explained in matter-of-fact tones, that it would be a mistake to proceed with medical treatment if the stars in heaven were aligned against me.

For all her majestic self-assurance, Mrs. Rama did not immediately inspire confidence in her patient. After asking some basic questions, she shuffled the stones and statuettes around her checkerboard and launched into my diagnosis. "In the summer of 1986, you got married," she declared firmly. Well, not exactly. In the summer of 1986, my wife and I celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary; by then we had three kids, a dog, and a minivan. "In 1998," she went on, "you were far from home and were treated for serious illness." Well, not exactly. Our American family was, in fact, living in London in 1998; but in that whole year, I never saw a doctor.

Mrs. Rama kept talking, but I stopped listening. To me, the stones and shells and statues all seemed preposterous. Still, I kept my mouth shut. If Indian medicine required yajnopathic analysis before health care could begin (and Mrs. Rama did eventually conclude that the timing was propitious for treatment), that was fine with me. I was willing to go along, in pursuit of the greater goal. For I had traveled to the Arya Vaidya clinic—it's in the state of Tamil Nadu, at the southern tip of the subcontinent, where the Bay of Bengal meets the Arabian Sea—on a kind of medical pilgrimage. I was on a global quest, searching for solutions to two different health problems, one personal and one of national dimensions.

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