Reader’s Forum — PJ Steiner, Steve Guarin, and Jessica Marta

PJ Steiner

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back was recommended to Politics for the People by PJ Steiner. Read on to see PJ’s response to Elisabeth Rosenthal’s book.  

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I initially heard about An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal while listening to an NPR interview with Terry Gross. Dr. Rosenthal was incredibly well versed on what the challenges in our healthcare “system” really are and how those challenges came to be. She absolutely wowed me with her excellent communication skills and journalistic chops.

But unfortunately, I became immediately worried about my own, and my children’s, healthcare future. As a Dad of two awesome autistic children, I worry about how they will be cared for throughout their life. I worry even more because our healthcare system (like public education) doesn’t really want to help them as much as it wants to profit from them.

Now that I’ve had a chance to read Dr. Rosenthal’s book, I feel the true immensity of the amoral “healthcare industrial complex” we have in this country. But I also feel some hope. There are a lot of tools and advice to be had to help the regular American fight their way to better care at a more reasonable cost.

Pick this book up. You’ll be glad you did.

PJ Steiner is the Vice President of The Utah League of Independent Voters.

Steve Guarin

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Steve Guarin (r) being presented with a 2016 Anti-Corruption Award by Juliana Francisco

If you want to learn why your wallet is getting lighter and your purse is becoming empty, read An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal. She lists and explains all the many ways medical care robs your billfold. They will even charge you for things you didn’t use. People have called the billing predatory, which is an outrageous situation to be put in by the people and organizations that are supposed to be helping you.

The subtitle of the story is, “How Health Care Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.” In a small part of the book I felt as if she was talking directly at me, the Compliant Patient. Up until I read this book I strived to be a compliant patient. I thought these were the people trying to make me better, but I have learned that is not true. Your family doctor is under a lot of pressure to make use of the expensive facilities of the hospital or medical group that employs him. One type of lab-test which we all get is the simple blood test. It behooves you to ask your doctor to use one of the commercial laboratories, i.e. Quest or LabCorp. It will be exactly the same test but the results from a hospital can be priced one hundred times higher.

Read this book and you will learn how medical care became a rapacious big business. More importantly, the author will teach you to be a Non-Compliant patient, and save some money.

Steve Guarin lives in the Bronx.  He is retired and an activist with the New York City Independence Clubs.

Jessica Marta

Marta

As a health-care provider, I’m familiar with many of the issues that Ms. Rosenthal is talking about in An American Sickness. All the unscrupulous things Ms. Rosenthal mentions, particularly price-fixing by pharmaceutical companies, are happening every day.

Is single payer health-care the solution? I don’t know. The single-payer idea has been around since the ’50s. Back then the American Medical Association shot it down by hiring Ronald Reagan to do TV ads telling the American public that single-payer health-care would take away our Freedom of Choice.

If not single-payer, then why couldn’t the government set limits or standards on the price of drugs or medical procedures? Because our government still caters to powerful special interests.

As long as we live under the current paradigm, that making money is the supreme good, poor people won’t have access to good care and middle-class people who can’t afford to pay for their own health insurance will go bankrupt after paying for long-term treatment. But we just see these as consequences for “others” and hope we are never in those situations.

I feel that patients are not the only casualties of our dysfunctional system. There are many providers who go out of their way for patients, jump through bureaucratic hoops to get care, but these folks can get very weary. I don’t know what the answer is, except a shift in political power on behalf of the interests of ordinary people.

Jessica Marta is an independent activist with Independent Voting and the New York City Independence Clubs. She lives in Manhattan and is an Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

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THIS SUNDAY

Politics for the People

Conference Call

An American Sickness

With Author Elisabeth Rosenthal

Sunday, Dec. 2nd at 7 pm EST.

Call in number:  641-715-3605 

Passcode 767775#

 ***

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Reader’s Forum — Al Bell

A Commentary on An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal

DSC_7664My first question to any elected official I contact about health care legislation (and I will) will be: “Have you read Elisabeth Rosenthal’s book, An American Sickness?”

If the answer is yes, my second question will be: “How have her ideas been incorporated in health care legislation you will sponsor or support?” You can probably imagine the course of the ensuing conversation.

If the answer is no, my second question will be: “Why not?” If the answer is, “I haven’t heard of that book,” or any pathetic derivatives of that answer, I will proceed as follows.

“Here is why you should buy it and read it. Elisabeth presents a comprehensive picture of why and how the medical industrial complex in America mistreats patients, the people we used to believe were the beneficiaries of what we used to think of as our health care system. Patients: that is us. She reveals why and how the complex focuses on profit and not health; why it is a cartel and not a system. She goes on to offer advice on how to work around the obstacles to effective health care despite the non-system by providing information on important sources of aid. She closes by explaining what needs to happen to reclaim a responsive health care system from the piranhas that now call the shots. She reminds us that we have a cadre of superb medical professionals, some of whom have become complicit in this disaster, but most of whom ache to carry out their role as healers and menders to those in need.”

“If you are not willing to read it yourself, then assign it to one of your brightest staff members and insist that she/he communicate with Elisabeth before getting back to you with recommendations on how to proceed. Then contact me and let me know what you intend to do, when you intend to do it, and who else you have joined forces with to make it happen. I especially want to know the names of any in the latter category who are not members of your political party.”

While it may be generally agreed that health care has become a major, if not the major, current concern of Americans, it is also self-evident that the medical industrial complex has shanghaied our political world and inoculated it against any conceivable common sense fix. The same force that is necessary to rescue our dysfunctional federal governance miasma from itself is the one that will turn health care around as well: we the people.

We the people need a tool for opening doors, slamming inattention to the floor, and prying open windows to an approach that will actually work. Elisabeth Rosenthal has given us the pry-bar; it is now up to us to wield it.

Elisabeth is not asking the doctors, specialists, technicians, hospitals, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, and others to sacrifice reasonable income and profit. She is making the case that extortion in those areas is not legitimate, especially when we pay with not only our money, but our health outcomes as well.

A message to my 60-some active contacts and my elected (some newly) officials in Arizona urging them to read and act on An American Sickness will go out this week.

Oh, one more thing. Thank you, Elisabeth, for the immense public service you have performed in crafting this report to the American people. Bravo, indeed!

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

 

***

Politics for the People

Conference Call

An American Sickness

With Author Elisabeth Rosenthal

Sunday, Dec. 2nd at 7 pm EST.

Call in number:  641-715-3605 

Passcode 767775#

 ***

Reader’s Forum —Cynthia Carpathios

An American Sickness: The Commodification of Americans

“Unless you’re part of the 1 percent, you’re only ever one unlucky step away from medical financial disaster.”

Although most of us are aware that the healthcare system in America is not well, we may not have realized the extent of the illness.  If you are fortunate enough to have a job with decent insurance, you may not realize how vulnerable you really are.

Elisabeth Rosenthal’s book, An American Sickness: How Healthcare Become Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, is a History and Physical of American Healthcare.  It is compelling, sometimes funny, and absolutely appalling.

The Chief Complaint is “hugely expensive medical care that doesn’t deliver quality results.”  Rosenthal then lays out the History of the Present Illness and Review of Systems, a look at how American medicine has transformed from one based on caring to one based on profit. And in the Diagnosis and Treatment, she gives us resources for ourselves and for the broader good, what we can do to be less vulnerable to outrageous doctor bills, hospital bills, insurance costs and what kinds of systemic changes we need to demand from our lawmakers, insurance companies, providers and healthcare institutions, hospital and insurance regulators.

What is so shocking is how vulnerable we all are, even those of us with the best insurance.  All we need is a hospitalization or emergency situation in which, without choice or informed consent, we receive service from out-of-network providers or end up in an out-of-network facility and we can be on the line for astronomical charges.  The provider may just say hello to you at your bedside in the hospital. You may be taken to the nearest facility when you are in a situation where every minute counts, and you may not even be conscious. And the rest of your life you may be in financial ruin.

Increasingly certain groups of providers and certain facilities don’t sign up in networks at all and charge whatever they want.

And this is only one outrageous way to go deeply into debt to our broken medical system.

The breakdown in relationship between the medical industry and the people they serve is one that touches all of us, and I feel particularly close to it. My father was a thoracic surgeon in the “golden age” of medicine.  He accepted what people could pay. We had several beautiful oil paintings from one of his patients. One of my brothers is a physician employed by a large medical conglomerate, who has considered repeatedly whether he can bear to stay in medicine. The differences between my father’s and my brother’s experience of the medical field are enormous.

I work in a hospital, a community hospital that has recently been acquired by a larger medical entity. I do payroll and accounting for the physician practices that are under the hospital’s wing.  I see the bankruptcy paperwork coming in for patients who have gone underwater. I see what we pay for consultants, for drugs, the closing of departments that don’t bring in enough money (we no longer deliver babies at this hospital) and the struggle our little hospital has had to stay open. I see the doctors who experience that despite their big paychecks, they are stressed and unhappy, many of them feeling like drivers being pushed to go ever faster and do more in a system whose focus is on the mighty dollar.

It is riveting and distressing to read Rosenthal’s history of the moves that have been made that have been part of creating the current state of affairs where patients are no longer related to on a human level – where they have become a commodity, a dollar figure.

The medical industry is not alone in this regard.  We have seen similar breakdowns in higher education, in banking and investor relations, in the relationship of employers to their workers, in government and its representatives to the people they are mandated to represent.  Things have never been perfect, there have always been ways in which certain groups have been more privileged; this is embedded in our country’s history. But what we are now seeing is a wholesale breakdown of the relationship between the service industries and the people they are purporting to serve.

What we are seeing is something that can’t just be changed by laws or more regulation.  The creativity of those at the top of the money-making pile to work around issues is enormous.  Yes, those changes are needed, and we need to support them. And we need cultural/social/human development at the same time, without which anything else will never be fully successful.  

Despite the infuriating advantage being taken by those who have the power and money to do so, they are also victims of this system.  Their humanity has been eroded and their growth as human beings stunted. We need to support functional changes where we can do so and we need to bring growth and development into our lives and those around us, transforming the systems that underlie our medical system, our society, our economy, our political system, our country from the inside out. 

Cynthia Carpathios is a long-time political independent and a novice Buddhist monk.  She lives in Alliance, Ohio.

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Rick Robol and Cynthia Carpathios of Independent Ohio

*Reminder*

Conference Call with Elisabeth Rosenthal

Author of American Sickness

Sunday, December 2nd at 7 pm EST

Call: 641-715-3605
Pass code: 767775#

Elisabeth Rosenthal at Politics and Prose (video)

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Elisabeth Rosenthal discusses her debut book about the American health care system


In her first book, Rosenthal, editor in chief of Kaiser Health News as well as an M.D., takes a comprehensive look at the country’s ailing health care system. By breaking down the whole into its parts, she guides readers through a complicated tangle of hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and drug manufacturers, focusing especially on the problems that have arisen in recent years as more hospitals are run by business executives and more research charities enter into profitable relationships with drug companies. Rosenthal shows how these arrangements harm patients and suggests ways we can heal the system.

Founded by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade in 1984, Politics and Prose Bookstore is Washington, D.C.’s premier independent bookstore and cultural hub, a gathering place for people interested in reading and discussing books. Politics and Prose offers superior service, unusual book choices, and a haven for book lovers in the store and online.

Visit them on the web at http://www.politics-prose.com/

Produced by Tom Warren

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*Reminder*

Conference Call with Elisabeth Rosenthal

Author of American Sickness

Sunday, December 2nd at 7 pm EST

Call: 641-715-3605
Pass code: 767775#

Politics for the People November Column on IVN

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

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by Kayla Shifter 

Elisabeth Rosenthal accomplishes the seemingly impossible: she’s created a digestible and oftentimes heartfelt guide to the American health care system. Statistical analyses, facts, and financial data litter the book, but with Rosenthal’s ability to seamlessly weave personal accounts and her sharply written “Economic Rules of the Dysfunctional Medical Market” throughout the book, readers can feel emotionally invested in the political football that is our country’s health system.

Health care is often treated as a partisan issue, but so clearly transcends politics: everyone needs it. Rosenthal—a doctor and editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News—comes at our flawed system as someone in the fold and speaks from experience.

Tackling issues like insurance availability, prescription and testing costs, medical billing, and the hospital industry, An American Sickness provides basic understandings with the help of stories from real individuals. These personal tales are injected thoughtfully, with intent. There’s no room for the interpretation on the reader’s part. No one will side with the hospital in Seattle that charged a woman’s insurance company more money for her less-than-a-day of services to remove a dangerous ectopic pregnancy than her two-day stay after her C-section years prior.

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In the chapter titled “The Age of Pharmaceuticals”, we learn of the corruption surrounding skyrocketing drug prices. Years ago, generic anti-nausea drugs became difficult to get. Allegedly, someone had purchased the plant that produced the drugs and shut it down. The FDA then issued a warning that linked the generic anti-nausea drugs to dangerous arrhythmias.

When doctors pushed for a Freedom of Information Act to study the documents that pressed the FDA toward its decision, they discovered that the abnormal heart rhythms occurred when doses from 50 to 100 times those typically given in the U.S. were used. The same problems arose when those doses of newer anti-nausea drugs were given, but since the older drugs had been issued the warning, hospital risk managers shied away from purchasing the generic brands. What formerly cost $2 to $3 skyrocketed to $149.

Rosenthal peppers her rules throughout, bringing us out of the misery that our health system can invoke and reminding us that this is not simply a series of recollections or stats, but a guide on how to not allow these circumstances to happen to you. She wants to arm you with the tools to navigate our greedy health industry, to get only the necessary treatments, to avoid surplus charges, and to steer clear of detrimental financial burdens.

Knowledgeable and sharp, An American Sickness is truly a user-friendly guideline for the average person. No one wants to prepare for the worst, but Rosenthal’s book is more punchy than dense, making her tactics and advice memorable. Remember: “Hospitals and doctors get away with unconscionable prices and practices because they think patients will be too timid to call them out on their greed, but they are very sensitive to bad publicity, to being exposed, or to the prospect of losing the confidence and support of a big local employer.”

With this book, Rosenthal gives you the power to fight.

Photo on 9-8-18 at 1.24 PM #3Kayla Shifter is an administrative assistant at Independent Voting, a writer, and an artist. This review was originally published on The Independent Voter Network here

***

Politics for the People

Conference Call

An American Sickness

With Author Elisabeth Rosenthal

Sunday, Dec. 2nd at 7 pm EST.

Call in number:  641-715-3605 

Passcode 767775#

 ***

New P4P Selection: An American Sickness

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