Is Obamacare nothing more than a last gasp of the insurance-company model before the inevitable embrace of single-payer? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Democrats won big in the midterms by promising to protect the Affordable Care Act, but they shouldn’t celebrate just yet. That, at least, is the implication of “Ensuring America’s Health: The Public Creation of the Corporate Health Care System,” which leads my list of interesting reads this year. This history by Christy Ford Chapin asks and answers a vexing question: Why does the U.S., almost alone among developed nations, have such an inefficient, byzantine health-care system that charges exorbitant rates for ever-diminishing coverage?

Chapin avoids the usual simplistic explanations, exploring the deep historical roots of the current impasse. She convincingly shows that the U.S.’s predicament is born of politics, not market forces. This has created a curious hybrid system that has entangled public and private power in ways that work at cross purposes.

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