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Sick, Jonathan Cohn

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I was browsing around The Book Passage in Corte Madera with a Christmas gift voucher from my mum when I saw this book and grabbed it.  I read it on our recent trip to Banff and Lake Louise.  I’ve had a gnawing interest in the inefficiencies and shortfalls of America’s health care system for some time now, ever since I was a wet-behind-the-ears engineer at a startup in my early twenties: with news of an impending layoff, my colleagues, especially those with families, became far more worried about the possibility of losing their health care than becoming unemp0loyed.  For someone that’s grown up in a country with universal health care, this was a bit of a shock to me.

Sick is a non-fiction conglomeration of stories of American people and families that have somehow found themselves, for some reason or another, un- or under-insured.  Each chapter begins with a different account of a real-life insurance pitfall and then goes on to discuss the evolution of America’s health insurance system in the latter part of the chapter.  By the end of the book Cohn provides the reader with an informed insight into how the health care system morphed to its current state, why the inefficiencies exist, and some of the solutions other countries have used to address similar issues.  The real-life accounts don’t simply focus on low income or unemployed unfortunates, instead cover a range of social classes, from postgraduate-educated professionals to down-and-out factory workers.

While the author obviously has his own agenda in writing the book, which he keeps to himself until the final chapter, it quickly becomes obvious that finding yourself in America without enough health insurance really is a very scary prospect.  It was exactly what I was looking for: a clear and well-written explanation as to why the health insurance industry finds itself in its current befuddled state.  Some of the accounts of un- or under-insured citizens are absolutely jaw-dropping.  My colleagues had their concerns prioritized correctly all those years ago: being without health insurance in this country is far more worrisome than being without a job.


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