We the Patients

Book by elisabeth rosenthal on table

Staying at home? Check. New reading list? Check.

As you all know, staying at home is the best way to #flattenthecurve. Our public health crisis of Covid-19, has lead many of us indoors. More free time can lead to worry, anxiety and a general uncertainty of what’s to come next and what to do now. That’s why we are going to start sharing with you some of our favorite activism, healthcare and public interest books and reportings. Find our first book club offering below. Happy reading and reach out with your own recs!

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back By Elisabeth Rosenthal

If the unpredictability, arbitrary pricing, and occasional blatant unfairness of modern healthcare costs are baffling to you, you’re not alone: We’re all at a loss to make sense of it. We were as frustrated as you as last year when heard about insurance catastrophes like a $25,000 throat swab or the five days in a psych hospital that cost more than the same stay in a Ritz-Carlton deluxe suite. And now, as 2020 begins, we count ourselves among the millions of Americans lost in a system that seems increasingly oblivious to patient concerns and almost entirely focused on profit, no matter the human collateral.

Fortunately, one thoroughly useful resource is also a very readable book: Elisabeth Rosenthal’s An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back. Rosenthal is a physician-turned-New York Times journalist who wrote for 22 years before becoming Editor-in-Chief of Kaiser Health News. With An American Sickness, she powers through the complicated tangle of corporate, private, and public interests that dominate healthcare effectively and efficiently, breaking up massive issues into sections averaging 20 pages each. The book itself is divided into two parts: Part I is called “History of the Present Illness and Review of Systems,” and includes analyses on everything from “The Age of Insurance” to “The Age of Pharmaceuticals” to “The Age of Conglomerates.” Part II, called “Diagnosis and Treatment: Prescriptions for Taking Back Our Healthcare,” is similarly divided by arena—Doctors’ Bills, Hospital Bills, Insurance Costs—with strategies and solutions laid out in plain language.

Granted, patients have plenty to read already (see: any hospital bill), but Rosenthal’s book is an easy choice for this month’s book club read, and not just because a pivotal presidential election approaches and healthcare policies hang in the balance. Rosenthal’s interests land squarely in the realm of patient welfare, making her one among a unique but vital subsection of advocates with higher platforms, and louder voices. So read her book, by all means, but don’t forget to speak up once you’re informed. As Rosenthal told the Times in 2014, her overall goal is to “start a very loud conversation”—meaning we should all add our voices to the fray.