The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1114: How Health Care Became Big Business (Archive)

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Learn how the business of medicine fails to help doctors take care of patients. What is driving the high prices, and what can we do about it?
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The American health care system is a $3 trillion mess. Although it has significant technological sophistication, this big business doesn’t seem consistently able to get appropriate treatments to the patients who need them. Millions of people have no insurance, or the insurance they have doesn’t cover the care they need. Increasing premiums and unexpected bills can put families under great economic pressure.

Medicine as Big Business:

We look at the business of medicine and how it evolved. Health care was once considered a nonprofit industry. How did profit come to dominate it so thoroughly? Now, some cancer centers may charge nearly half a million dollars for a new treatment. Few individuals can afford that, and eventually insurance companies will find it challenging to pay. Is there anything that can be done to change this situation?

An American Sickness:

Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal has examined the conditions that culminated in our current health care system. She has also looked at the consequences for American health. You’ll definitely want to hear about the rules that the dysfunctional economic system of health care uses.

In addition to analysis, she offers suggestions for both individual and collective action to turn health care around. How can you make sense of your hospital bills? What can you do to reduce the chance of an unexpected out-of-network charge? Learn what political action could take health care back from big business.

This Week’s Guest:

Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, is editor in chief of Kaiser Health News, an independent newsroom focusing on health and health policy journalism. Before that, Dr. Rosenthal earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and practiced as an emergency physician. She spent twenty-two years as a reporter, correspondent and senior writer at The New York Times.

Her book, just out in paperback, is An American Sickness: How Health Care Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.

The photo of Dr. Rosenthal is by Nina Subin.

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