Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America [NOOK Book]

Overview

Mama Might Be Better Off Dead is an unsettling, profound look at the human face of health care. Both disturbing and illuminating, it immerses readers in the lives of four generations of a poor, African-American family beset with the devastating illnesses that are all too common in America's inner-cities.

The story takes place in North Lawndale, a neighborhood that lies in the shadows of Chicago's Loop. Although surrounded by some of the ...
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Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America

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Overview

Mama Might Be Better Off Dead is an unsettling, profound look at the human face of health care. Both disturbing and illuminating, it immerses readers in the lives of four generations of a poor, African-American family beset with the devastating illnesses that are all too common in America's inner-cities.

The story takes place in North Lawndale, a neighborhood that lies in the shadows of Chicago's Loop. Although surrounded by some of the city's finest medical facilities, North Lawndale is one of the sickest, most medically underserved communities in the country. Headed by Jackie Banes, who oversees the care of a diabetic grandmother, a husband on kidney dialysis, an ailing father, and three children, the Banes family contends with countless medical crises. From visits to emergency rooms and dialysis units, to trials with home care, to struggles for Medicaid eligibility, Abraham chronicles their access (or lack of access) to medical care.

Told sympathetically but without sentimentality, their story reveals an inadequate health care system that is further undermined by the direct and indirect effects of poverty. When people are poor, they become sick easily. When people are sick, their families quickly become poorer.

Embedded in the family narrative is a lucid analysis of the gaps, inconsistencies, and inequalities the poor face when they seek health care. This book reveals what health care policies crafted in Washington, D. C. or state capitals look like when they hit the street. It shows how Medicaid and Medicare work and don't work, the Catch-22s of hospital financing in the inner city, the racial politics of organ transplants, the failure of childhood immunization programs, the vexed issues of individual responsibility and institutional paternalism. One observer puts it this way: "Show me the poor woman who finds a way to get everything she's entitled to in the system, and I'll show you a woman who could run General Motors."

Abraham deftly weaves these themes together to make a persuasive case for health care reform while unflinchingly presenting the complexities that will make true reform as difficult as it is necessary. Mama Might Be Better Off Dead is a book with the power to change the way health care is understood in America. For those seeking to learn what our current system of health care promises and what it delivers, it offers a place for the debate to begin.

Describes how Medicaid & Medicare works/hosp. financing in the inner city/organ transplants.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Carroll
Abraham first wrote about the health problems of the pseudonymous Banes family of North Lawndale on Chicago's west side for a six-part series in "The Chicago Reporter"--a feisty and award-winning monthly. Though she had covered AIDS, public health, and medical ethics for AMA's "American Medical News", the author often shared Jackie Banes' "confusion and frustration" as both women "struggled to make sense of . . . the street-level operation of. . . Medicaid, city clinics, Medicare's kidney program, Medicare coverage for the elderly and disabled, government in-home care programs" on behalf of the Banes family's diabetic and hypertensive grandmother, stroke-survivor father, dialysis-patient husband, and three young children. In this hodgepodge of programs, where cost-shifting intensifies the irrational incentives that produce maldistribution of care even for insured Americans, family caretakers like Jackie Banes and the dedicated health professionals Abraham describes fight an endless battle to achieve that elusive "access" that is a bland abstraction in so many pompous editorials about health care. An eloquent, well-documented reminder that fundamental, far-reaching reform is vital, not just to calm middle-class anxieties, but to begin to address the devastating and debilitating poverty that causes and/or aggravates so many of the "medical" problems of families like the Baneses.
Walter Bogdanich
A book of unexpected power. What begins as a matter-of-fact account of one black family's struggle to get Medicaid care, builds into an emotional indictment of our incomprehensible, illogical health care bureaucracy.
New York Newsday
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226019390
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 297
  • Sales rank: 174,515
  • File size: 2 MB

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1: "Where crowded humanity suffers and sickens": The Banes family and their
neighborhood
2: The rigors of kidney dialysis for Robert Banes
3: Gaps in government insurance for Mrs. Jackson
4: Fitful primary care fails Mrs. Jackson
5: Mrs. Jackson's melancholy
6: The inner-city emergency room
7: One hospital's story: How treating the poor is "bad" for business
8: Who's responsible for Tommy Markhams's health?
9: Jackie Banes's "patient"
10: Empty promises: Preventive care for the Banes children
11: Robert Banes plays the transplant game
12: The Banes family and white doctors
13: Life-sustaining technology
14: Amazing grace
Epilogue
Appendix
Notes
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2002

    An insightful examination of the desparity in healthcare delivery

    Laurie Abraham, an investigative writer for the "Chicago Reporter," reveals the impact of socioeconomics on the ability to access healthcare benefits in the Unites States. The allocation of healthcare in the United States is based upon who can pay for it, whether through ones own resources or by insurance benefits. Those who cannot pay for health insurance and are without resources of their own to pay for health care are left to rely upon the hotpotch of health care provided through federal and state medicaid programs. Abraham's study of the Banes family chronicles the harships, disappointments, and resignation that the Banes experiences while attempting to access healthcare in their impoverished Chicago neighborhood, North Lawndale. Robert Banes, the father and husband, did not recieve reliable, steady coverage until his kidneys failed. His brother in law, Tommy Markham, could not recieve reliable medical care until AFTER he suffered a debilitating stroke caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. These are just a few examples of the difficulty the "poor" experienced in trying to access basic healthcare in the late 1980's and throughout the 1990's. Ironically, as Abraham points out, the United States, one of the wealthiest of all industrialized nations, is only one of two industrialized nations that does not provide at least basic healthcare to all citizens. Health care access is contingent upon wealth, not need; a fact that is desturbing, at least.

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