Clear without oversimplification, this is a valuable primer to solving the medical insurance maze and getting the best coverage. Harrington (The Medicare Answer Book) is good on both the general and specific: She alerts readers throughout on state-to-state variations in regulations and safeguards as she lays the basis for individual decisions. Harrington first gives a concise course on the history and basics of health insurance, the special relationships between insurers and providers, then looks separately at group insurance, individual coverage (basically, a disaster in this country), medicare, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield offerings, HMOs, indemnity policies, and the problems of sex discrimination. With all the problems and expense involved in securing reasonable coverage, Harrington never recommends gambling on not getting it: ""It would seem better to put in the homework required to get at least standard basic health insurance coverage rather than play Russian roulette with your financial future."" She is also coldly realistic about getting the most real information out of insurance sellers. First, do your homework on competing policies, then ask the agent to explain any apparent deficiencies in his policy: ""To elicit the proper response, do this in a slightly puzzled tone of voice, with your body language conveying that you think the agent you are talking to is more knowledgeable than you. . . Do not under any circumstances sound argumentative, accusative, or too bright. . . What you hope to elicit is an unguarded answer that will tell you trade secrets about other companies."" Sound basics, here well-supported by a saavy understanding and thorough explanation of how to work the system to best benefit. A solid resource.