Summary and book reviews of An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal

An American Sickness

How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

by Elisabeth Rosenthal

An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal X
An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

Award-winning New York Times reporter Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal reveals the dangerous, expensive, and dysfunctional American healthcare system, and tells us exactly what we can do to solve its myriad of problems.

It is well documented that our healthcare system has grave problems, but how, in only a matter of decades, did things get this bad? Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal doesn't just explain the symptoms; she diagnoses and treats the disease itself. Rosenthal spells out in clear and practical terms 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, explaining step by step the workings of a profession sorely lacking transparency. This is about what we can do, as individual patients, both to navigate a byzantine system and also to demand far-reaching reform.

Breaking down the monolithic business into its individual industries - the hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, drug manufacturers - that together constitute our healthcare system, Rosenthal tells the story of the history of American medicine as never before. The situation is far worse than we think, and it has become like that much more recently than we realize. Hospitals, 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. Americans are dying from routine medical conditions when affordable and straightforward solutions exist.

Dr. Rosenthal explains for the first time how various social and financial incentives have encouraged a disastrous and immoral system to spring up organically in a shockingly short span of time. The system is in tatters, but we can fight back. An American Sickness is the frontline defense against a healthcare system that no longer has our well-being at heart.

Excerpt
An American Sickness

In the past quarter century, the American medical system has stopped focusing on health or even science. Instead it attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits.

Everyone knows the healthcare system is in disarray. We've grown numb to huge bills. We regard high prices as an inescapable American burden. We accept the drugmakers' argument that they have to charge twice as much for prescriptions as in any other country because lawmakers in nations like Germany and France don't pay them enough to recoup their research costs. But would anyone accept that argument if we replaced the word prescriptions with cars or films?

The current market for healthcare just doesn't deliver. It is deeply, perhaps fatally, flawed. Even market economists themselves don't believe in it anymore. "It's now so dysfunctional that I sometimes think the only solution is to blow the whole thing up. It's not like any market on Earth," says Glenn...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Rosenthal informs her readers about abuses: how lobbyists have influenced government policies that benefit drug companies and insurers; how drug and device manufacturers skirt laws, take advantage of vagaries in regulations, and "game the system" to reap obscene profits; and how deceptive accounting practices lead to incomprehensible – and often inaccurate – bills that patients and insurers pay without question. An American Sickness is truly a must-read book for every U.S. resident; it's incredibly eye-opening and informative, and has the potential for sparking reform given a wide enough audience. Rosenthal's crisp writing style makes the book eminently readable and even those not typically drawn to non-fiction will find it holds their attention.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
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 Washington Post
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.

Nature
Bold, insightful, well-researched analysis.

Kirkus Reviews
A blast across the bow of the entire health care industry ... A scathing denouncement.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Rosenthal unveils with surgical precision the 'dysfunctional medical market' ...a startling cascade.

Booklist
Starred Review. 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.

Author Blurb Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene
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.

Author Blurb T. R. Reid, bestselling author of The Healing of America, The United States of Europe, The Chip, and Confucius Lives Next Door
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.

Author Blurb Sheri Fink, M.D., Ph.D., Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Five Days at Memorial and War Hospital
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.

Author Blurb 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
Through vivid, heart wrenching stories and trenchant analysis, Libby Rosenthal unveils the irrationality, indifference, harmfulness, and downright unfairness of the American health care system.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The American Healthcare System: Did You Know?

In An American Sickness, Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal provides many intriguing details about the U.S. healthcare system. Here are a few:

Capsules

  • The first employer-sponsored health insurance plan was developed in Dallas, Texas in 1929 as a sort of pre-paid hospitalization account offered to teachers in the area. It evolved into Blue Cross over the ensuing decade, becoming the United States' first national health insurance plan.
  • The healthcare industry spends $15 billion in the USA annually on advertising. In 2000 pharmaceutical company Merck spent more on ads for just one new painkiller (Vioxx) than Budweiser, Pepsi or Nike did for all their products that same year. The USA is one of only two countries to permit advertising of drugs on ...

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