If I could buy every American one book to read before the next elections it would be Critical Condition. This book lays on the line the horrific state of our health care system in America and how every single person is going to be, if they are not already, deeply affected by it. Some will be more than just affected. Some will die because of it. And don’t think you and your family are immune. The system is so diseased, we are all on the verge of being infected.
Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and investigative journalism team Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, who have also written the bestselling America: What Went Wrong, dissect a beyond-dysfunctional system of health care rampant with abuse, gross neglect, mismanagement, greed, corporate whoring and mistakes that cost lives. They begin their onslaught against one of the world’s worst health care systems (sorry, Americans, but we are simply NOT always the best at everything…), and the fact that over one hundred million of our citizens are either uninsured or underinsured. They also claim that many people who think they have great policies end up losing their homes, and occasionally their lives, when they end up in the hospital and find out that the small print on their policy excluded their specific form of treatment from full coverage.
The real horrors occur when the authors introduce us to the managed-care systems that have been corrupted by greed and profits, always at the expense of their patients. I was shocked to find how many hospitals are for-profit, and how that hunger for profit often leaves the poorest of our citizens paying the biggest bills for the same treatment their rich counterparts receive. The injustice, unfairness and complete inequality of treatment occurs in every state of the union, with the least likely to afford their bills being charged often TEN TIMES more than those most able to pay.
There is also ample ammunition against the sheer greed of the pharmaceutical companies as they lobby our elected officials with the only thing that counts in health care today – money. The authors claim that most new drugs are just old drugs with minor tweaks, yet with price tags way above the norm, and that the drug companies have systematically halted efforts by state and local lawmakers to allow people to buy cheaper and OFTEN MORE RIGOROUSLY TESTED drugs from Canada. The Bush party line of “Canadian drugs are not safe” is simply a lie, as the authors point out with plenty of facts to back their claims.
Also enraging is the massive amount of money drug companies put into advertising on TV and magazines, and how this public brainwashing has led to millions of Americans taking drugs they really don’t need, including the many who are on anti-depressants that have been shown in study after study to be no more effective than sugar pills. These commercials are so potent and persuasive, people are literally demanding their doctors’ give them drugs they don’t even need, simply because a TV ad promised they could get a free sample.
From the terrifying mistakes made by underpaid and overworked nurses, to those made by unqualified phone consultants giving medical advise, to the brutal manner in which many HMOs and medical groups like Kaiser treat their patients, to the needless deaths of men, women and children who could have easily been saved, to the rising costs of administration of managed care, to the fact that by the time you read this review, most major health insurance companies will have outsourced most of their administrative and diagnostic services to India – all of the shocking information in this tragic, but utterly critical book points to one thing. We are on the verge of a major disaster here in the United States, a disaster that will cripple our economy and leave millions ill and without proper care.
A disaster that easily could be avoided, according to a workable plan for national health care that the authors offer at the end of the book. Ironically, national health care would cost far less than the disastrous system we have now, and it would ensure that all Americans get the basic coverage they need to be healthy. After all, we cannot hope to improve our economy if our people are falling sick and cannot get care, something the current presidential administration seems to care little about. If only the Republican leadership could get beyond the “national health care” stigma and realize, the conservatives they are supposed to be, that this coverage of every citizen would not only empower our workforce, improve our economy, and encourage healthy living, but it would cost billions of dollars, yes, BILLIONS of dollars less than the chaotic mess we are now paying for.
BUY THIS BOOK. Read it and give it to anyone and everyone you know, because our health care system is about to implode, and take all of us with it. Only a healthy nation can truly be a strong nation. And sometimes the best homeland security begins in the doctor’s office.