Lown Institute leaders weigh in on health care reads

August 29th, 2017

This month, Lown President Vikas Saini and Vice President Shannon Brownlee reviewed two health care bestsellers – Elisabeth Rosenthal’s An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back and Robert Pearl’s Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care – And Why We’re Usually Wrong. According to Saini and Brownlee, both of these books are required reading for understanding our dysfunctional health care system, but leave something to be desired in their proposed solutions.

Read Saini’s review in Health Affairs and Brownlee’s review in the Washington Monthly

It’s impossible not to be shocked

Rosenthal’s An American Sickness provides a history of health care over the last few decades, showing how deregulation encouraged hospitals to put profits over patients, and using example after example to show how bad the problem of health care costs has become. Brownlee called An American Sickness a “groundbreaking” book that “makes it impossible not to be shocked, if not enraged, by the… profiteering our health care industrial complex so often engages in.” However, “the solutions for individuals that Rosenthal offers seem tame and slight,” says Saini.

Trapped in a subpar system

Pearl’s Mistreated looks at health care from both a doctor’s and patient’s perspective, uncovering the reasons why players in the system act the way they do. Pearl “accurately conveys the fact that the vast majority of [doctors] are well-meaning professionals trapped in a subpar system,” says Saini. Pearl also takes aim at the “legacy players” who profit from the current system. However, similar to Rosenthal, Pearl’s theory of change falls short of real system transformation.

Despite not going far enough in their solutions, Rosenthal and Pearl’s smart, captivating books can certainly “spark the outrage” we need for a democratic revolution in healthcare.