New York, NY — Everyday, millions of Americans struggle to find affordable medical care for themselves and their families, often leading to long-delayed treatment of illness and financial ruin. In SICK: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis, and the People Who Pay the Price (HarperCollins; April 10, 2007), journalist and Demos Senior Fellow Jonathan Cohn offers a fascinating, first-hand account of America's failing health care system.
As the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee health care to its citizens, with over 44 million uninsured and tens of millions more underinsured, the United States is at a crossroads. The healthcare crisis will only grow as Baby Boomers retire, employers continue to shed comprehensive health packages, and health care providers shift more costs to patients. Cohn demonstrates in striking terms that the American health insurance system, first created in the 1930s, is truly collapsing. Unless we have an immediate national investment in affordable and accessible health care, Cohn warns, Americans will suffer a decline in health and longevity, a reversal to standards of 100 years ago.
Combining original reporting from Washington, accounts from those who engineered the current health care conversation, and testimonies from ordinary people nationwide who have suffered along the way, Jonathan Cohn presents stories from the front lines of the medical crisis that will resonate with anyone who has come face-to-face with the failings of the American health care system.
A look inside a few of the personal stories from SICK:
Gilbertsville, New York: Gary Rotzler is living the American dream; married to his high school sweetheart, father of three young kids, homeowner in a bucolic Catskill Mountains village. But when Gary loses his job at a defense contractor, he loses his family's health benefits, too. When he returns to his old employer, the company claims it is reacting to competition in the marketplace and cannot offer benefits. Eventually the Rotzlers end up forgoing routine medical care, a decision that will haunt them when Betsy's worsening back pain turns out to be more than simple fatigue.
Lawrence County, Tennessee: Wanda Maldonado and her husband Ernesto have worked for most of their adult lives. But health insurance became unaffordable as they grew older and their pre-existing conditions effectively made them uninsurable in the private market. Fortunately, Tennessee's Medicaid program, TennCare, makes it possible for them to buy the drugs that kept them alive. Unfortunately, Tennessee is currently facing a fiscal crisis and TennCare may be eliminated.
Austin, Texas: When Elizabeth Hilsabeck gives birth to twins in her twenty-third week of pregnancy, the doctors tell her the babies probably won't live. Although the twins survive, her son Parker has a series of early medical problems eventually diagnosed as cerebral palsy. Fortunately, her husband's job at a local Austin bank provides great health insurance. But when she tries to get Parker physical therapy, which physicians say is his best hope, her biggest obstacle is navigating managed care. Her HMO doesn't agree with the doctors and even some of her husband's co-workers question why their premiums should go up just so Parker can get therapy that might not even work.
With powerful anecdotes and comprehensive reportage, Cohn offers readers a roadmap for rethinking the way the United States addresses health insurance. As Kirkus Reviews put it: [Cohn] 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& [A] compelling portrait of a deeply troubled system.
Jonathan Cohn is a senior fellow at the think-tank Demos and senior editor at The New Republic, where he has written about national politics and its influence on American communities for the past decade. He is also a contributing editor at The American Prospect. Cohn, who has been a media fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, has written for the New York Times, 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.