howard-dean-prescr-for-real-healthcare.thumbnail.JPGHoward Dean has done a lot in his 60 years. He’s been the Governor of Vermont, a candidate for President, and the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. However, many don’t realize that he’s was also a practicing physician.

Yet, as the health care reform battle roared back to the national stage this year, Howard Dean’s experience as a doctor was suddenly more than a stump speech slogan. Dr. Dean, with experience in politics and medicine, was uniquely positioned to inform the national debate on not only health reform, but health care itself.

And so, the good doctor (with some help from Faiz Shakir and Igor Volsky over at Think Progress) wrote a book, Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.

Dr. Dean’s Prescription accomplishes a few important tasks. First, Dean outlines why we need reform in the first place, with stark facts and stories making the case that everyone – workers, children, businesses, and government – needs health reform. More importantly, he outlines the trouble with private health insurance:

The problem with private health insurance, particularly in the individual market, is not just that it is inadequate; it also stems from companies having to report quarterly profits that must increase every year to satisfy Wall Street. In order to do so, they often have to cut benefits.

Private, for-profit insurance companies must meet two obligations that are often mutually exclusive:

  1. Their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits.
  2. Their responsibility to their customers to give good service

Increasingly, the former is maintained at the expense of the latter.

Dean goes on to lay out his "prescription" for health reform to fix our health care system. In a slogan: PO or NO. According to Dr. Dean, without a public health insurance option, it’s not health care reform. I agree.

Part three of Dean’s book lays out who’s standing in the way of health reform and why. He identifies the lobbies and special interests working against reform – folks like AHIP and the NFIB. Not only is the opposition identified, but their objections to health reform are debunked and their true intentions revealed. Not surprisingly, those true intentions are either profit or ideological conservatism.

Dr. Dean then busts myths about health reform, debunking misinformation about health care in other countries and about the plans put forward in Congress. The chapter "Eleven Myths" is something everyone should print out to give to those they meet who are wary of reform or who have swallowed the lies. The case Dean makes is persuasive.

Finally, Dean asks the reader to take action by organizing themselves and their communities. Dean and his publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing, have taken the idea a step farther, however. They’ve created an iPhone application to accompany the book (available here [iTunes link]) which not only contains the book, but helps you call your Senators and Representatives, post information to Facebook and Twitter, and spread the word to your friends. As a new media person, I’m impressed to see new technology being used in this way, especially given that the iPhone market is only growing.

Overall, the book is written in Dean’s characteristic no-nonsense style. It knows what it wants to say, it gets to the point quickly, and it makes a forceful case not only for health reform, but for real health reform. Throughout, Dean’s personal experiences with medicine, the legislative process, and politics shine through. And that’s the key to tying this book together.

If Dean were just a doctor, his ideas on how to pass health reform and who’s standing in the way would be underdeveloped. And if Dean were just a governor, his ideas on how politicians work would be less credible. And if Dean were just a former chairman of the DNC, his ideas on what real people need would be out of touch. But he’s all three: Practitioner, politician, and party leader. It is really a unique position in the current debate, and a position that should lend Dean’s ideas more credence both out in the states and inside the beltway.

Dr. Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform describes a reformed health care system that works for you and me, and attacks the special interests battling against it. It’s a book I wish more Members of Congress would read right now as they decide the fate of our health care system.

Maybe you should send yours a copy?