No issue has been more dominant in national politics since 2009 than health care. President Obama made reform of health care his top priority during his first year in office, and Congress passed a sweeping reform plan in March 2010. But the issue has not lost its resonance in the ensuing four years. If anything, our political discourse has grown even more contentious, and the debate is certain to continue for several more years.

This issue stirs deep passions in part because it is about more than technocratic health care policy. It’s also about rights and responsibilities, the balance between governmental power and private action, and political power. How the issue is resolved could have important implications for the national economy, the federal budget, and our national political culture.

Images courtesy Obama White House (1 | 2

James Capretta on the health care law & federal budget


James C. Capretta

James C. Capretta is a Resident Fellow and holds the Milton Friedman Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies health care, entitlement, and US budgetary policy, as well as global trends in aging, health, and retirement programs. Mr. Capretta spent more than 16 years in public service.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session



Discussion Questions:

  1. Why has medicine become a political issue?
  2. What are the main competing theories about why there are problems in U.S. health care? What are those problems?
  3. Are these problems unique to the U.S. situation or universally shared across the developed world?
  4. Do these competing diagnoses point in different directions in terms of public policy solutions?



Discussion Questions:

  1. Do health care costs need to be controlled? Why, or why not?
  2. Can the federal government control health costs? How? What are the pros and cons of turning cost control over to the federal government?
  3. Is there any evidence that a market-based system would work? If it did, what are the pros and cons? Would there be equity concerns?



Discussion Questions:

  1. Is the prevailing perception that U.S. health care is inferior on costs and quality accurate?
  2. What explains the popularity of nationalized systems in most of the developed world?
  3. Are the data for international comparisons useful? What other factors beyond health might explain these differences?

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