American Health Care: The Best in the World?

American Health Care: The Best in the World?
Hillary Clinton: Science, Medicine, Inventions and tech

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One to two weeks


Shortly after his inauguration as President, Bill Clinton named Hillary to chair a panel that would investigate health care in the United States and prepare a new health care plan to be submitted to Congress.  Both Hillary and the panel--called the President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform--ran into two years of difficulties, which encompassed political, ideological, and personal issues.  By 1994, the panel and its proposals were effectively buried.  Still, it is the first time that a First Lady has held such an important and official position in her husband's administraton.  And health care issues continue to be a major problem for the United States.


Students who participate in this activity will gain an understanding of the issues, perspectives, and problems involved in reforming our health care system.  They will also gain experience with a process called "deliberative democracy," in which various positions on an issue are discussed within a framework that is directed toward actually solving a problem. 

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Access to print materials on the status of health care in the U.S. and around the world (optional but useful if available).


1.  Begin this lesson by discussing students' own experiences with the American health care system--what do they know about it, what do they perceive are its problems (if any), what do they think should be done to improve it.

2.  With that discussion as a "snapshot" of where the students are in thinking about health care, give students time to explore the two web sites (below) called "International Health Care Comparisons," and "Comparing the U.S. Health Care System to Other Countries."  Ask them to list what they perceive to be the biggest problems with our health care system.

3.  Then, distribute copies of the Public Agenda Health Care Overview that you have printed from the web site below and have all students read it.

4.  Discuss with the students the three positions on health care reform, making sure that they understand the basic position of all three. 

5.  Divide the class into three groups, assigning each group one of the three positions. If possible, it would be a good idea to see if the students' own opinions would fall "naturally" into these three positions and still create three groups of relatively equal size.  If that works, fine; if not, assign people to groups.

5.  Using the Public Agenda websites listed below (and others, as they see fit), ask each group to research its "position" on health care, paying particular attention to the arguments for and against each position. 

6.  Prior to the presentation of positions, discuss with students the general ideas of deliberative democracy, especially on the idea that this should not be just a debate, with winners and losers, but an opportunity for all sides to listen to other positions with care and appreciation, and then to try to negotiate a solution that-- even if it doesn't make everyone actually "happy,"--it has a chance of advancing the cause of health care reform.

7.  Stage the deliberation on the three positions on health care reform.  If students come up with other positions, great!  Subdivide the groups and carry on!

8.  The object is for the whole class to come up with a health care reform proposal to submit to Congress.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by having students explore the Timeline on the 1990's debate on the Clinton Health Care Plan.  The timeline is well done, and will introduce students to the "real world" of partisan politics, as well as give them some insights on additional factors that come into the "mix" of trying to decide the best solution to a very complex problem.

Sources & Resources:


International Health Care Comparisons

Comparing the U.S. Health Care System to Other Countries

Public Agenda Issue Guides: Health Care Overview

Public Agenda Health Care Fact File

Public Agenda Health Care Discussion Guides: Three Perspectives

Background on Deliberative Democracy

Timeline on the 90s Debate on the Clinton Health Care Plan


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.