New Faculty Book Tackles the Past and Present of American Healthcare
Feb. 5, 2021
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Professor of Political Science Greg Shaw takes on the behemoth question of how to pay for healthcare in the United
States in a new book titledMedicare and Medicaid: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, Contemporary World Issues).
Shaw charts the history of Medicare and Medicaid since 1965, examining strengths,
shortcomings and major controversies at an introductory level targeted at high school
and college students and the general public. The book features Shaw’s own analysis
as well as short essays from a number of perspectives, from practitioners to lobbyists
to everyday Medicaid users, in order to paint a fuller picture of how our complex
healthcare works in theory and practice.
Politics have only added to the complexity of the current healthcare debate, and Shaw
hopes that readers will take the time to learn the facts behind partisan programs
such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as Obamacare.
“Partisanship has so swamped the public discourse that many people can't see the contradiction
in themselves when they protest that they hate Obamacare but also appreciate the Medicaid
expansion their state has adopted,” said Shaw. “When a person is hell-bent on hating
the idea of the ACA and what it signifies for them and they can't understand the problems
the law was designed to address and how those interventions are actually working,
we have a serious problem with democracy.”
One problem that the book brings to the forefront is how to pay for nursing homes
when so many elderly Americans rely on Medicaid, a program that was never designed
to be a main funding source for millions of Americans dependent on long-term nursing
care. Many long-term care facilities limit the number of Medicaid patients they accept,
and those that do accept Medicaid often struggle financially and are poorer in quality.
“Bottom line,” said Shaw, “we need to figure out how to support an aging population,
millions of whom will need this type of care before their lives end.”
Figuring out how to solve the current issues with Medicare and Medicaid is beyond
any single book; however, Shaw does give a balanced perspective on some popular proposals.
The book weighs the pros and cons of Medicare for All, a single-payer option championed
by many progressive Democrats, as a quick way to ensure universal coverage but a difficult
political battle. In contrast, a public option favored by President Biden and other
moderates would be a more gradual step toward a single-payer system that would build
on our current, established system.
In the year-and-a-half since Shaw began this project, the book has evolved with politics
and the pandemic, a crisis with the potential to shape the long-term contours of public
opinion and policy. The aim of his book, however, has stayed constant––bring to light
the reality of American healthcare, without the heated debates and partisan divides.
Shaw concluded, “I can't and don't expect non-specialist citizens to busy themselves
with public policy homework, but it sure would be nice if more people would tone down
the heat and turn on the lights.”