In this book, Charles E. Phelps provides a comprehensive look at our health care system, including how the current system evolved, how the health care sector behaves, and a detailed analysis of "the good, the bad, and the ugly" parts of the system—from technological advances (the "good") to variations in treatment patterns (the "bad") to hidden costs and perverse incentives (the "ugly"). He shows that much of the cost of health care ultimately derives from our own lifestyle choices and, thus, that education may well be that the most powerful form of health reform we can envision.
Phelps shows that our system seems deliberately to make it difficult for people to understand and react to incentives in our health care and details the specific complications our federal tax system creates in these matters. He provides examples of how incentives alter the behavior of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers and shows why the system will remain both costly and ineffective until we fix the incentives. Perhaps most important, he reveals that much of the cost of health care ultimately derives from our own lifestyle choices—smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and alcohol abuse (plus, to a much smaller extent, sexual behavior and illicit drug use)—and thus that education may well be the most powerful form of health reform we can envision.