ASA Press Releases
Contact: Jackie Cooper or Lee Herring
Phone: (202) 247-9871

RSS Feed
Subscribe to ASA News Updates
Follow us on Twitter

March 21, 2005

Strengths and Failings of U.S. Health Care “System” Are Driven Less by Medical Requirements and Economic Efficiency
than by Embedded Vested Interests

Washington, DC — Medical sociologists examine how American social, cultural, and political-economic contexts govern the structure, efficiency, and operational nature of U.S. health care delivery in a special issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB), a scholarly publication of the American Sociological Association (ASA). With unique strengths in studying organizations, institutions, and the political economy, sociological researchers offer useful insights for researchers of well-being and for health care policymakers through objective and comprehensive overview as well as focused research articles. Made possible by sponsorship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this special issue of JHSB—titled “Health and Health Care in the United States: Origins and Dynamics”—examines the efficacy of U.S. health care in the world context.

While the United States is one of the richest and most politically powerful nations in the world, its health care system exhibits numerous sociological, political, and economic dilemmas. Embedded in private market competition, the U.S. health care system has become one of the most inequitable, inefficient, and costly systems among those of western industrialized nations. At the same time, the United States delivers some of the finest health care in the world, and yet with more than 16 percent of Americans uninsured, mostly children, many do not have access to or cannot afford this health care.

The JHSB articles shed historical and contemporary light on some of the reasons behind this inequality and explore the function of the health care system by examining the “origins of corporate health care,” “the dynamics of health care markets,” and “systemic implications of corporatized health care.” The journal features analyses over several decades of the development of current institutional arrangements of health care delivery and health care organizations, details about their weaknesses, and the requirements for improving services to acceptable standards.

Among other timely topics, the articles explore the history of U.S. universal health care policy proposals, problems in long-term care, comparisons between managed care chains versus hospital chains, and clinical practice guidelines after a public backlash against managed care. The researchers detail the ways in which organizational, cultural, and professional forces shape the health and medical markets, even as corporate interests transform health care and the health professions.

News reporters/editors: Contact the ASA Public Information Office (202-383-9005 x332, for further information or to obtain a copy of the Extra Issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. View the table of contents at JHSB04ExtraTOC.pdf. Read the introduction at JHSB04ExtraIntro.pdf. Download the article on national health insurance at JHSB04ExtraQuadagno.pdf.

# # #

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.