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An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back (Paperback)
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A New York Times bestseller/Washington Post Notable Book of 2017/NPR Best Books of 2017/Wall Street Journal Best Books of 2017
"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
At a moment of drastic political upheaval, An American Sickness is a shocking investigation into our dysfunctional healthcare system - and offers practical solutions to its myriad 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.
About 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.
“An eye opening discussion . . . [An] important book. . . . Rosenthal told an interviewer her goal was to “start a very loud conversation” that will be “difficult politically to ignore.” We need such a conversation – not just about how the market fails, but about how we can change the political realities that stand in the way of fixing it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Patients can save thousands of dollars by purchasing An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal.”—New York Journal of Books
"An authoritative account of the distorted financial incentives that drive medical care in the United States . . . Every lawmaker and administration official should pick up a copy of An American Sickness. Then, at last, the serious debate could begin.” —The Washington Post
“Bold, insightful, well-researched analysis.” —Nature
“Truly remarkable for the extensive interviews and range of documentation it provides.”—American Psychological Association
“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