Book Review: The Hidden History of American Healthcare

In The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Sickness Bankrupts You and Makes Others Insanely Rich, author Thom Hartmann returns to familiar themes of greed, racism and oligarchic corruption. He applies them to a system of healthcare that profits the wealthy and provides marginal healthcare to Americans. A proponent of Medicare for all, Hartmann dives into what’s wrong with American for-profit healthcare and how changing it to a single payer system would be better for citizens.

Describing the overall theme of the series of Hidden History books, Hartmann lays out the challenge:

Americans must now prepare politically for 2024, and that starts by picking candidates and promoting policies that will beat oligarchy at both the presidential and congressional levels.

But most urgently, the entire country must laser-focus on stripping the oligarchic and fascistic elements that have crept into our republic since the Powell Memo, multiple Supreme Court interventions, and the Patriot Act with the war crimes and torture it has already facilitated.

Preface, The Hidden History of American Healthcare by Thom Hartmann

Anyone who bought health insurance through an employer or privately knows the issues with the American system: health insurance premiums are expensive and subject to high annual increases; there are co-pays that vary depending upon what type of coverage is purchased; preexisting conditions affect premium amount and can exclude people from some types of coverage; rather than visit a clinic close to home, an insured must visit medical professionals within the network of the insurance company or face higher costs. This system led to health care costs representing 24 percent of GDP. Countries like Taiwan have a healthcare cost of six percent of GDP, according to Hartmann.

There is a better, less expensive way of providing healthcare. The trouble is, Hartmann said, “(it) would cut off the hundred of millions of dollars that health care industry executives take home every month.”

Thom Hartmann

Hartmann seeks to put healthcare into historical context. He recounts the first single-payer healthcare system in 1884 Germany. He takes us through the creation of Medicare from John F. Kennedy’s initial proposal to passage into law under LBJ, and through the Republican dissent over the program. Hartmann describes Republican efforts to privatize Medicare through what is called Medicare Advantage implemented by President George W. Bush. That section of the book alone makes it worth the reading.

Like previous books in the series, Hartmann’s book is readable and familiar. It is divided into four sections: How bad things are in America regarding healthcare; the origins of America’s sickness-for-profit system; the modern fight for a human right to healthcare; and saving lives with a real healthcare system. The last section proposes solutions to our healthcare system problems.

The Hidden History of Healthcare in America takes us through the history to make the critical point: “It is time for America to join every industrialized country in the world and make health a right, not a privilege.”

Because the subject of the book is so familiar, it renders a complicated process to bare essentials with concrete proposals for action to fix the healthcare system. I highly recommend the book, which is scheduled to be released Sept. 7, 2021.

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