Posted on October 29, 2004

Bartlett & Steele - "Critical Condition"


How Health Care in America Became Big Business - And Bad Medicine
By Donald L. Barlett & James B. Steele

Politicians love to say that the United States has the best health care system in the world. In truth, it doesn’t come close. Certainly, no one disputes that the nation has many talented, highly trained professionals who work with the latest equipment, who are knowledgeable and capable of delivering first-rate care. But what kind of system shuts out forty-four million Americans? What kind of system excludes people with illnesses beyond their control? What kind of system insures a husband but denies coverage to his wife? What kind of system forces people to choose between risking financial ruin and risking their lives?

Much of the turmoil is a direct result of a national policy to run health care like a business, a misguided notion promoted by Washington over the last two decades that the free market and for-profit health care would restrain costs and bring high-quality care to all. On both counts, the experiment has failed miserably.

As long as Washington remains wedded to the illusion that market-based medicine will cure health care’s woes, tens of billions of dollars a year will continue to vanish in waste, inefficiency, fraud, and in profits to companies that make money by denying care.

It doesn’t have to be this way. America’s health care crisis can be cured, and, unlike almost every other major challenge facing the nation, it can be solved without spending more money. We already invest enough of our national wealth on medical care. The plan should be to treat this crisis as seriously as if it were an epidemic, and to redirect resources where they belong - into taking care of the health needs of every American.

Comment: This book is yet another excellent resource on the profound deficiencies in the most expensive health care system on earth. But what is unique about this book is the qualifications of the authors. From the Doubleday website:

“Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele are America’s most widely acclaimed investigative journalism team. They have worked together for three decades, first at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and, since 1997, as editors at large for Time. They are the only journalists in history to have won two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards, as well as dozens of other national awards. They are the coauthors of six books, including America: What Went Wrong?, which spent eight months on the New York Times bestseller list.”

And what solution do they propose? I’ll give you a hint in the form of a very brief quote that comes from their chapter, THE REMEDY:
“Under a single-payer system…”