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An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back
     

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

by Elisabeth Rosenthal
 

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At a moment of drastic political upheaval, a shocking investigation into the dangerous, expensive, and dysfunctional American healthcare system, as well as solutions to its myriad of problems

In these troubled times, perhaps no institution has unraveled more quickly and more completely than American medicine. In only a few decades, the medical system

Overview

At a moment of drastic political upheaval, a shocking investigation into the dangerous, expensive, and dysfunctional American healthcare system, as well as solutions to its myriad of problems

In these troubled times, perhaps no institution has unraveled more quickly and more completely than American medicine. In only a few decades, the medical system has been overrun by organizations seeking to exploit for profit the trust that vulnerable and sick Americans place in their healthcare. Our politicians have proven themselves either unwilling or incapable of reining in the increasingly outrageous costs faced by patients, and market-based solutions only seem to funnel larger and larger sums of our money into the hands of corporations. Impossibly high insurance premiums and inexplicably large bills have become facts of life; fatalism has set in. Very quickly Americans have been made to accept paying more for less. How did things get so bad so fast?

Breaking down this monolithic business into the individual industries—the hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and drug manufacturers—that together constitute our healthcare system, Rosenthal exposes the recent evolution of American medicine as never before. How did healthcare, the caring endeavor, become healthcare, the highly profitable industry? Hospital systems, which are managed by business executives, behave like predatory lenders, hounding patients and seizing their homes. Research charities are in bed with big pharmaceutical companies, which surreptitiously profit from the donations made by working people. Patients receive bills in code, from entrepreneurial doctors they never even saw. 

The system is in tatters, but we can fight back. Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal doesn't just explain the symptoms, she diagnoses and treats the disease itself. In clear and practical terms, she spells out exactly how to decode medical doublespeak, avoid the pitfalls of the pharmaceuticals racket, and get the care you and your family deserve. She takes you inside the doctor-patient relationship and to hospital C-suites, explaining step-by-step the workings of a system badly lacking transparency. This is about what we can do, as individual patients, both to navigate the maze that is American healthcare and also to demand far-reaching reform. An American Sickness is the frontline defense against a healthcare system that no longer has our well-being at heart.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/06/2017
Rosenthal, a New York Times senior writer and former physician, provocatively analyzes the U.S. healthcare system and finds that it’s “rigged against you,” delving into what’s gone wrong as well as how Americans can make it right. In the first part of this astounding takedown, Rosenthal unveils with surgical precision the “dysfunctional medical market” that plays by rules that have little to do with patient-centered, evidence-based medical care. In part two she prescribes the rigorous but necessary steps to fix the broken system. Rosenthal chronicles a startling cascade of escalating pressures that steadily drove up medical costs, including the skyrocketing spread of health insurance coverage in the 1940s and ’50s, hospitals’ adoption of big-business models, and doctors’ convoluted payment schemes. “Our healthcare system today treats illness and wellness as just another object of commerce: revenue generation,” Rosenthal writes. She also notes that politicians, insurers, hospitals, and doctors have all maneuvered to “undermine” the Affordable Care Act. Her advice for now is starkly simple: we need to question everything, including your choice of doctor, hospital, billing statement, insurance, and the drugs and devices we’re prescribed. Given the “false choice of your money or your life,” Rosenthal argues, “it’s time for us all to take a stand for the latter.” (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“In this in-depth analysis of a malfunctioning system, Rosenthal makes a compelling case against the hospital and pharmaceutical executives behind the “money chase,” and it’s hard to imagine a more educated, credible guide…The patients she interviewed share mind-boggling stories…She builds her case with one damning statistic after another…Rosenthal presents solutions both personal and societal in this commanding and necessary call to arms.”
Booklist (starred) 

“Provocatively analyzes...Rosenthal unveils with surgical precision the "dysfunctional medical market"...a startling cascade.”  
Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

“A blast across the bow of the entire health care industry . . . Throughout, the author blends extensive research with human interest . . .A scathing denouncement.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Elisabeth Rosenthal’s meticulous history of the crisis in American health care should be required reading for our generation. I have not read another volume that diagnoses the “deeply, perhaps fatally, flawed” system of health insurance and delivery with such lucidity, dissects its critical shortcomings, and provides such a clear prescription for its ills.  Bold, imaginative, tautly written and filled with fury and compassion, this book will serve as the definitive guide to the past and future of health care in America.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene

“Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, a physician turned tenacious reporter, shows how the ‘highly dysfunctional’ American health care system turned the Gentle Art of Healing into a Greedy Arsenal of Profit, where everybody does well—except the patient. She also teaches us how to fight back against useless treatments, outrageous fees, and bewildering bills.”
—T. R. Reid, bestselling author of A Fine Mess, The Healing of America, The United States of Europe, The Chip, and Confucius Lives Next Door

An American Sickness will give you many new reasons to avoid getting sick, but also the resources to help protect your finances and your life if you do. Elisabeth Rosenthal’s remarkable, outrage-inducing book reveals how each attempt to check the health industry’s excesses has been exploited for monetary gain. Both a fascinating history of dysfunction, and a clear manifesto for change.”
—Sheri Fink, M.D., Ph.D., Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Five Days at Memorial and War Hospital

“Through vivid, heart wrenching stories and trenchant analysis, Libby Rosenthal unveils the irrationality, indifference, harmfulness, and downright unfairness of the American health care system that can often seem more driven by profit than caring and compassion.  She also offers tremendously helpful advice to patients on how to navigate the system to ensure they get the best outcomes.”
—Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Reinventing American Health Care 

Library Journal
11/15/2016
Think our health system is ailing? Wait until your read this book by Rosenthal, the New York Times senior writer (and Harvard M.D.) who authored the investigative series "Paying Till It Hurts." A scary nuts-and-bolts explanation of how U.S. health care works plus guidance on how to cope. Did you know that if you can't pay your medical bills you could lose your home?
Kirkus Reviews
2017-02-13
A blast across the bow of the entire health care industry, which "attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits."Rosenthal, a senior writer for the New York Times who has a Harvard Medical School degree and served as a physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, asserts that the American medical system is sick, having lost its focus on health. In the introduction, her list of "Economic Rules of the Dysfunctional Medical Market" includes such gems as "1. More treatment is always better. Default to the most expensive option," and "10. Prices will rise to whatever the market will bear." She begins by demonstrating how for-profit insurance changed the way hospitals operate and doctors practice medicine and how it has revolutionized the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Throughout, the author blends extensive research with human interest. A personal horror story, with names and dates, opens each chapter: an individual dies or nearly dies, someone is overtreated, or someone receives a staggering bill for a simple test or procedure. In forthright language—Rosenthal uses blunt terms like "crapshoot" and "mess"—individual chapters focus in turn on hospitals, physicians, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, testing, and assorted medical business such as billing, coding, and collection agencies. One or more of the 10 "Economic Rules" sums up each presentation, driving home the author's message of a deeply flawed medical-industrial system. Rosenthal then offers advice to patients on how to make the system more responsive and affordable. Beyond that, she details what changes society could and should demand through updates of regulations and laws. Five appendices provide further guidance, including a glossary of terms used in medical billing, sources of information on the internet about doctors, hospitals, procedures, and drugs, and templates for concise and effective protest letters. A scathing denouncement, stronger in portraying the system's problems than in offering pragmatic solutions.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780698407183
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/11/2017
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
296,429
File size:
836 KB

Meet the Author

Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal was for twenty-two years a reporter, correspondent, and senior writer at The New York Times before becoming the editor in chief of Kaiser Health News, an independent journalism newsroom focusing on health and health policy. She holds an MD from Harvard Medical School, trained in internal medicine, and has worked as an ER physician. She lives in New York City and Washington, DC.