From Publishers Weekly
Contrary to Americans' common belief that in health care more is more—that more spending, drugs and technology means better care—this lucid report posits that less is actually better. Medical journalist Brownlee acknowledges that state-of-the-art medicine can improve care and save lives. But technology and drugs are misused and overused, she argues, citing a 2003 study of one million Medicare recipients, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine
, which showed that patients in hospitals that spent the most were 2% to 6% more likely to die than patients in hospitals that spent the least. Additionally, she says, billions per year are spent on unnecessary tests and drugs and on specialists who are rewarded more for some procedures than for more appropriate ones. The solution, Brownlee writes, already exists: the Veterans Health Administration outperforms the rest of the American health care system on multiple measures of quality. The main obstacle to replicating this model nationwide, according to the author, is a powerful cartel of organizations, from hospitals to drug companies, that stand to lose in such a system. Many of Brownlee's points have been much covered, but her incisiveness and proposed solution can add to the health care debate heated up by the release of Michael Moore's Sicko
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*Starred Review* Award-winning health and medicine writer Brownlee notes that Americans spend between one-fifth and one-third of health-care dollars on unnecessary treatments, medications, devices, and tests. What's worse, there are an estimated 30,000 deaths per annum caused by this unnecessary care. The reason for what amounts to a national delusion that more care is better care is rooted, she says, in a build-it-and-they-will-come paradigm that rewards doctors and hospitals for how much care they deliver rather than how effective it is. In a step-by-step deconstruction of America's improvident health-care system, Brownlee sheds light on events, attitudes, and legislation in the twentieth century's latter half that led to this economic nightmare. With the skill of a crack prosecuting attorney, she cites specific cases of physician and hospital fiscal abuse. Her aim is broad but not scattershot as she hits not just docs and hospitals but private insurers, Medicare, patients, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies by, for instance, quoting a pharmaceutical salesperson who confesses financing a physician's swimming pool to get the doc to write more prescriptions. She is not all bad news, though, for she posits models that could be adapted to create a nationwide health-care system that conceivably could staunch the current fiscal hemorrhaging. If only. Chavez, Donna