Stories of people who have run afoul of the US health care system illustrate some of its serious flaws.
New Republic senior editor Cohn, an advocate of universal health care, says the time has come for a serious debate about health-care reform in this country. He not only highlights current problems here, he also provides a history of health insurance in this country and the political thinking and social forces that have helped to shape it. He opens with the death of a Boston woman whose ambulance is diverted because of emergency-room overcrowding, which, sadly, is not uncommon. Cohn then takes the reader to Gilbertsville, N.Y., where Betsy Rotzler, who has cancer, foregoes medical care because her husband’s health insurance vanished along with his job. In Deltona, Fla., self-employed Janice Ramsey cannot find a health-insurance plan that will accept her because she has diabetes. The Hilsabecks of Austin, Tex., are denied physical therapy for their handicapped son by their HMO. In Sioux Falls, S.D., Lester Sampson cannot get needed medications for his wife because he lost his health insurance when the meatpacking company at which he’d worked for more than 30 years canceled employees’ retirement health benefits. The story of the Maldonados in Lawrence County, Tenn., shows what cutbacks in Medicaid do to a family with serious health problems and very limited resources. Cohn examines the financial problems facing nonprofit hospitals and how they cope with them through the story of a former nun without insurance who is sued by a Catholic charity hospital in Chicago. He demonstrates the critical state of large public hospitals serving the urban poor via Jose Montenegro’s experiences at County–USC in Los Angeles. A final chapter portrays Denver’s Doren family, sinking into debt because of restrictions on mental-health benefits.
Compelling portrait of a deeply troubled system.