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« Before the Next Attack, by Bruce Ackerman | Main | The Great Risk Shift, by Jacob Hacker »


Sick: The Untold Story, by Jonathan Cohn

By an everyday book reader
April 1, 2007

In a tiny village tucked into the Catskill Mountains, a man whose job stopped providing health insurance watches his wife die from a cancer that went undetected too long. In a booming suburb outside of Austin, Texas, a mother fights with an insurance company to get her disabled baby therapy so that he can someday learn to walk.

And in the middle of the prairie heartland, a retiree sells his house because it's the only way he can pay for the medications that keep him and his aging wife alive.

This book is a penetrating work of reportage about the failure of America's medical system, as seen through the stories of the people who engineered the current health care revolution and those who have suffered from it.

Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis -- and the People Who Pay the Price
by Jonathan CohnBook Picture

Hardcover: 320 pages
HarperCollins
April 2007
ISBN: 9780060580452, 0060580453

America's health care system is unraveling. Every day, millions of Americans find themselves in the same position as these people: struggling to find affordable medical care for themselves and their families. It is a problem unique to the United States, the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee access to medical care as a right of citizenship. It is also a problem that is about to get even worse.

The American health insurance system, first created in the 1930s, is collapsing. And unless somebody decides to build a new system in its place, millions of more Americans will suffer. Combining the real-life stories of ordinary people across the country with original reporting from Washington, this book explains why this transformation is taking place -- and the consequences that could someday befall all of us as a result of it.

Passionate, illuminating, and often devastating, Sick interweaves these stories with clear-eyed reporting from Washington and takes us inside the medical industry to chronicle the decline of America's health care system--and lays bare the consequences any one of us could suffer if we don't replace it.

"Sick is one of those rare books that combines the personal with the sharply analytical." - Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights

"In Sick, Jonathan Cohn . . . has written a call-to-arms for a complete transformation of American medicine." - Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

"Cohn's book will infuriate you enough to make you want to scream at every member of Congress, `Read this!'" - David K. Shipler, author of The Working Poor

"This is a stunningly important book. Jonathan Cohn lays bare the tragedy of our health care system." - Atul Gawande, author of Complications

"Jonathan Cohn's Sick is an eye-opening work on healthcare in America told through the stories of those in need." - Jerome Groopman, author of The Anatomy of Hope

"In this addition to the growing list of exposes of the toll our patchwork, profit-based health-care system takes on Americans, Cohn makes a plea for a universal coverage with a single-payer system regulated by the government. Drawing on research and riveting anecdotes, Cohn, a senior editor at the New Republic, describes how private insurers decide who and what they will and will not cover. He also examines how rising health-care costs lead corporations to seek ways to deny coverage to employees, such as hiring full-time workers as temps or independent contractors without health insurance. In tale after tale, Cohn documents the sometimes catastrophic results. they couldn't. Cohn points out that managed care initially had an altruistic goal of making health-care affordable for all. But by 1997, two-thirds of HMOs were controlled by for-profit companies concerned with making money rather than preventing and easing sickness. The author convincingly argues that Medicare and universal health care in such countries as France, though not perfect, are far superior to the system most Americans face. Much of this is well-trod territory, but Cohn is eloquent, and he's good at using case studies to dramatize and explain complex issues." - The Publishers Weekly

"As a serious discussion of universal healthcare takes place once again in the United States, Cohn (senior editor, New Republic) offers a convincing collection of stories about people dealing with the inequities and problems in the present system. Each story is linked to a specific issue--including shrinking employer-based insurance, disappearing retiree insurance, private insurance, managed care, Medicaid, the uninsured, and coverage for mental health--and connected to the politics and economics that control the system. Cohn comes to what he considers the inevitable conclusion--universal care deserves a fresh look--before comparing the U.S. system to those of other industrialized countries. The stories are based largely on first-person interviews; primary and secondary sources are well documented." - Dick Maxwell, Library Journal

Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic, where he has written about national politics and its impact on American communities for the past decade. He is also a contributing editor at The American Prospect and a senior fellow at the think tank Demos. Cohn, who has been a media fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Slate, and The Washington Monthly. A graduate of Harvard, he lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and two children.

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