American health care reformers, who often look to other nations for models of desirable health systems, are often surprised nowadays by cross-national infatuation with health policy innovations minted in the United States. American innovations appeal to policy makers abroad as they struggle with cost pressures, distinguish knowledge about how health systems work, and deal with changing images of what constitutes good public policy. These strategems are adapted, not adopted; however, the premises and practices with which other nations follow American directions differ deeply from those in the United States. Ironically, even cross-national experiments may end up offering instructive policy “rules” to the exceptionalist United States.

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