The Ten Year War is a look back at the 'crusade' for universal healthcare coverage, and a sequel to Cohen’s earlier book ... His take remains informed and nuanced, not breathless. The Ten Year War also captures acrid and tectonic shifts in US politics ... Cohn persuasively argues that the combatants in the healthcare fight operated with less than perfect knowledge, and that preconceived convictions too often clouded their judgment. Cohn aims at both policy wonks and political junkies. Laced with interviews and quotes from both sides of the aisle, his book is definitely newsworthy.
The party is now in a position to learn from its mistakes, to apply the lessons of the Obamacare fight to the big policy conflicts of today. The only problem is that no one can agree on what those lessons are ... A new book by the reporter Jonathan Cohn, one of the foremost health care journalists in the United States, purports, if not to answer that question, then at least to provide a jumping-off point ... the account hovers somewhere between journalism, the first draft of history, and a history written by the victors. And this is a story about a victory, but a Pyrrhic victory. It is a story about taking one step forward, then taking one step back, then taking one step forward, then getting your foot shot off ... Cohn also gives us what we might call the Small Man Theory of History, showing how a lot of minor players worked behind the scenes to save the law from failure. We are introduced not only to legislative titans like Baucus and Kennedy but also to an army of economists, staffers, lobbyists, and advocates who pushed or pulled the debate in one direction or another ... Thus, in a fitting paradox, the lessons of Cohn’s account may have less to do with health care than with legislative strategy in general.
The author, a seasoned health-care reporter, demonstrates sourcing and meticulous research that usher readers inside a lot of rooms where federal health policy was debated and decided during more than the 10 years of the book’s title. Yet Cohn is so wedded to the steady cadence of his chronology that he seldom lingers to reflect on truly revealing or portentous moments...while giving equal weight to nuances and subplots that only an ardent policy wonk might savor ... I wonder whether some readers might feel a bit overwhelmed ... many...characters appear only once or twice in the 334 pages of text. Even for those who recur, Cohn shows us their actions far more than the meaning for them of the events in which they are players ... It would have been nice if the story offered more...interior views across its pages ... Perhaps the most impressive feat of this detailed retelling is that Cohn gets virtually everything right ... Cohn’s work is impressive, too, in its fundamental fairness ... for all the main actors and bit players in the ACA wars to whom we are introduced, Cohn’s Washington-centric focus all but leaves out any empathetic portrayal of ordinary Americans whose lives have been touched by the Affordable Care Act ... It would have been good to meet them across the narrative—even to know who they are.