HEALTH CARE $$$$: Newspaper names three books we should read!


Epilogue—Not necessarily helpful:
On Thursday morning, May 25, the analysts woke us quite early.

They held that day's New York Times in their youthful hands. They had a complaint about the paper's "Here to Help" feature.

As always, the feature appeared on the Times' reimagined page A3. That morning, its presentation appeared beneath this heading:
Here to Help
Sure enough! In the body of the feature, the Times provided capsule summaries of three new books we could read.

The analysts were perplexed. "Wouldn't it be more helpful," their spokesperson said, "if the Times would read the three books, then publish reports about them?"

The youngsters had a fair point. How helpful is it when newspapers tell us to go read a book?

That said, we noticed that one of the recommended books was Elisabeth Rosenthal's new volume, An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.

Until last year, Rosenthal worked for the New York Times. (Today, she's editor in chief of Kaiser Health News.) In 2014, she wrote a series of front-page reports about health care prices, "Paying Till It Hurts."

Her new book has been widely reviewed, and of course never discussed. According to Nexis, the book has gone unmentioned in prime time programs on MSNBC, where a chase is currently on.

(Nexis doesn't provide transcripts for MSNBC's daytime programs.)

Helpfully, the Times was suggesting that we should read Rosenthal's book. Intriguingly, the Here to Help capsule said this:
HERE TO HELP (5/25/17): Elisabeth Rosenthal argues that rising drug prices and the bureaucratization of nonprofit hospitals are largely to blame for making the American health care system prohibitively expensive. In this deep dive into the economics of health care, Ms. Rosenthal cites examples like the Providence Portland Medical Center, a hospital started by nuns that became, she writes, "a weird mix of Mother Teresa and Goldman Sachs."
That was the whole review! We haven't yet read the book, although we expect to do so.

We haven't yet read the book. We have scanned its contents in a book store, checking to see if astonishing data like these appear:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Though journalists do so all the time, we don't know how you can discuss health care spending absent those astonishing data. That's why we scanned the book's 416 pages.

We've also watched Rosenthal's hour-long interview on C-Span's After Words program. You can watch that program here.

We had the analysts watch the program last night. They returned to us with one observation and one question.

First, their observation. Rosenthal seems like a very nice person, they universally judged. The said the same thing about David Blumenthal, who interviews Rosenthal during the hour-long session.

Then they posed their helpful question, commandeering a phrase from the first Clinton chase.

The youngsters posed an intriguing question. "Where's the outrage?" they thoughtfully said.

Also, where's the interest: According to Nexis, Rosenthal has been interviewed about her new book on the PBS NewsHour (April 27) and on Good Morning America (April 10).

According to Nexis, the book has been mentioned nowhere else on cable or broadcast TV.

As we've long noted, those astonishing data, and the looting behind them, are widely avoided by the nation's intermittently helpful journalists. "Information is hard," a few scribes have secretly said.


  1. "Though journalists do so all the time, we don't know how you can discuss health care spending absent those astonishing data. That's why we scanned the book's 416 pages."

    What can this book possibly have to say in 416 pages if it doesn't quote Somerby's favorite stats?

  2. Rosenthal's earlier series at the Times was very good, but I can't recall if she did the '94s'