A couple of years ago, Steven Brill published a series of articles in Time magazine called “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” Brill’s work on the subject has blossomed into his new book, “America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System.”
We described the Time articles as an exhaustive examination of how the medical industrial complex inflates the cost of health-care treatment and how reform efforts don’t begin to address the problem. The book explores even farther into the dark corners of American health care, and what it finds is enough to make you swoon.
Brill relates how the U.S. dropped $3 trillion on health care last year, which is more money than not only any other developed country, it’s “more than the next ten biggest spenders combined.”
Health care is the single biggest expense for most American families, and the bang we get for our bucks is appallingly deficient in comparison with other similarly developed countries.
Brill begins his tale from a personal perspective – he’s waiting to undergo emergency heart surgery, and is overwhelmed with a moment of clarity: Apportioning health-care resources is difficult not only because of political pressure and greed, but because human beings are ill-equipped to make objective decisions when they or their loved ones are on the brink of mortality. Or think that they might be.
Add to that state what the Los Angeles Times review called the “parasitic, corrupting interests slowly degrading the legislative process and … the feckless state of American bureaucracy,” and you have to hope that common men and women will find a way to overcome powerful forces that, if they don’t make you sick, can certainly keep you there.