An American Sickness Book Summary - An American Sickness Book explained in key points
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An American Sickness summary

Elisabeth Rosenthal

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

4.4 (47 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

"An American Sickness" by Elisabeth Rosenthal exposes the corrupt, profit-driven healthcare system in the US and offers solutions for a fairer and more affordable system.

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    An American Sickness
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    The American health-care system went from humble beginnings to high profits.

    In the grand scheme of things, the American health-care industry isn’t very old. It emerged around 1900, with the introduction of the very first health-insurance policies, which were designed to compensate workers for income lost during illness.

    The earliest US insurance companies were nonprofits that aimed to help hospitals get paid while also helping patients save money.

    For a long time, Blue Cross and Blue Shield were the only major health-insurance companies. But in the 1950s, a decade during which the number of Americans buying health insurance jumped by 60 percent, it became clear that insurance was big business. Soon, for-profit companies started taking over.

    Since then, health insurance has remained an extremely profitable business.

    To understand just how big the industry has become, let’s look at Jeffrey Kivi, a New York chemistry teacher who has been treated for psoriatic arthritis since childhood. People with this condition have an over-responsive immune system that attacks their skin, and, without regular infusions of a drug called Remicade, their life would be almost unbearable.

    Jeffrey’s treatments used to cost $19,000 every six weeks, and his insurance always covered it. But then, when Kivi’s doctor moved to another hospital, a single infusion suddenly started costing $130,000. Jeffrey was surprised when his insurance company picked up the tab, no questions asked.

    It might seem crazy, but nowadays, insurance companies are actually looking for such absurdly high bills.

    In 1993, Blue Cross spent 95 cents of every dollar they earned covering medical costs, but in the following years they decided to keep most of that money as profit. That is, until the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) required insurers to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of every dollar earned on patient care.

    This requirement is what made Jeffrey’s insurance company so happy to pick up that $130,000 tab. Since they make so much money, they need to spend a lot of it in order to adhere to the rules.

    But this is only scratching the surface of what’s going on in today’s American health-care system.

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    What is An American Sickness about?

    An American Sickness (2017) takes an honest look at the state of the American health-care system and frankly diagnoses its many ailments. When big business started taking over what were once charitable organizations, things began to go truly wrong. Rosenthal presents valuable information on how to reduce health-care bills and not get taken for a ride by greedy hospitals and over-prescribing doctors.

    An American Sickness Review

    An American Sickness (2017) by Elisabeth Rosenthal is a compelling exploration of the flaws in the American healthcare system that is definitely worth reading. Here's what makes this book special and interesting:

    • By delving into the dark underbelly of the healthcare industry, Rosenthal exposes the high costs and inefficiencies that plague the system.
    • Through her extensive research and real-life stories of patients, the book offers a deep insight into the experiences of individuals navigating the complex world of healthcare.
    • The author's unbiased analysis and thought-provoking revelations challenge commonly held assumptions, ensuring that readers gain a fresh perspective on the healthcare system.

    Best quote from An American Sickness

    The list of hospital CEOs with million-dollar annual salaries is long – even if their hospital is listed as a not-for-profit.

    —Elisabeth Rosenthal
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    Who should read An American Sickness?

    • Americans, both healthy and sick
    • Workers in the health-care and insurance industry
    • Readers who want to save money

    About the Author

    Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, after spending many years as a correspondent and reporter for the New York Times, became editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News, a position she still holds. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, she has invaluable experience as an ER physician and extensive training in internal medicine.

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    An American Sickness FAQs 

    What is the main message of An American Sickness?

    The main message of An American Sickness is that the US healthcare system is broken and in need of reform.

    How long does it take to read An American Sickness?

    The reading time for An American Sickness varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is An American Sickness a good book? Is it worth reading?

    An American Sickness is a compelling read that sheds light on the flaws in the US healthcare system. It's definitely worth reading for anyone interested in healthcare reform.

    Who is the author of An American Sickness?

    Elisabeth Rosenthal is the author of An American Sickness.

    What to read after An American Sickness?

    If you're wondering what to read next after An American Sickness, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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