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The Boston Globe

Books

katharine whittemore

Recent books about health care in the US

Some books have the worst timing. Take last year’s “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” which came out just before President Obama released his birth certificate. Or the flattering bio of Joe Paterno, in the works when Penn State’s Sandusky scandal broke, then painfully published this summer. Sadly, a great, even groundbreaking book had a similar fate. “Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Would Work Better For Everyone” (Barrett-Koehler, third edition, 2012) debuted in the winter of 2007—just as the Walter Reed Army Medical Center exposé hit. You remember the gist: mold inside the building, drug dealers outside, appalling neglect everywhere. Best Care Anywhere? Ouch.

Here’s the thing, though: Walter Reed is not a VA hospital. It’s run by the Department of Defense, not the Department of Veteran Affairs. This distinction was lost on me, and many others, too. Thankfully, author Phillip Longman, a senior fellow at the Washington Monthly, shook off all the snarky bad timing commentary swirling on the Internet. And he got his revenge; the book has had two more printings and become an inspirational must-read in reform circles. Ezra Klein, of the Washington Post, also calls it “among the most important social policy books” of the decade.

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