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“Critical Condition…” by Barlett

The book under analysis called Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business – and Bad Medicine describes the flaws of the U.S. health care system. Even though the government spends much more money on sustaining health care services than other nations, the medical coverage and quality of treatment leave much to be desired. The author presents profiles of physicians and their patients who have been caught by the existing system and who present their accounts, explaining the main constraints they were encountering.

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Health care professionals focus on insurers’ negligence and medical mistakes whereas patients explain the cases of horrible treatment, leading to complications and unexpected outcomes. While focusing on business affairs rather than on the quality of treatment, private sectors violate the legislation and human rights to make more profits. The book, therefore, provides a deep insight into the critical condition of health care that should be of great concern to each U.S. citizen.

The book presents a great number of abhorrent anecdotes, stories, and the authors employ hyperboles and distortions to make the picture even more shocking. By citing numerous instances of pitfalls that the U.S healthcare system faces concerning their patients, they have managed to persuade the readers that the insurance system and Medicaid program experience crisis. While referring to facts and evidence, the authors write “If [patients] are hospitalized and don’t happen to have an extra $ 10,000, $ 50,000, or $ 100,000 tucked away, they can put at least part of the tab on their credit cards, they are advised to do by health care providers and pay an additional 17 percent in interest” (Barlett and Steele, 2004, p. 2).

The authors, therefore, portray the situation in which money matters more than people do. In the world in which the business sector dominates, uninsured people suffer the most. Even the emergence of non-governmental organizations fails to assist people and provide them with professional medical aid. Bartlett and Steel (2004) reiterate statements that the percentage of uninsured will continue increasing to reach 100 million uninsured Americans. By introducing the recent studies and reports, the authors successfully manage to combine the facts and make conclusions about life expectancy, crime rates, and living standards in the United States.

Despite the validity of the figures highlighted in the book, there are still some inconsistencies. In particular, Bartlett and Steel (2004) state that there are “thousands” of insurance plans, but in fact, its number slightly exceeds 1000. Their allegations also refer to the exaggerated number of drugs prescribed to patients, which makes the United States the most fraudulent country. However, some countries consume much more pills, which implies that this violation is not the basic underpinning for the detrimental situation in healthcare.

Additionally, some of the statements do not correspond to reality. Specifically, Barlett and Steele mistakenly refer to the companies paying doctors for attending dinners and talking about the effectiveness of the recently produced drugs. In fact, this information is outdated because the legislature-imposed prohibitions on the companies bribing health care professionals. Therefore, this issue is now being heavily concerned by the government due to the strict control of drug company’s activities.

The skepticism of financial issues is not pertinent either because some of the efficiencies were skipped by the authors. For instance, Barlett and Steele (2004) state that the number of outpatients has been decreased by 29 %, which supposed to lead to a decrease in expenditures on hospital financing. In fact, the costs did reduce by 14 %. The fact that the costs are increasing again, however, is explained by the high ratio of aged population, expensive technology, and malpractice, but not by a well-developed system of bureaucracy in the country, as the authors assume. Therefore, businesses should not put the blame fully on themselves because some of the issues relate specifically to professional negligence and cases of malpractice.

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The chapter called The Remedy focuses on the unequal comparison of the American health care system with the historical period of Normandy Landings during which individuals were regarded as a coordinated whole rather than as individuals who needed specific treatment. Such a comparison is reasonable to an extent because the currently launched provisions provide patients with the right to choose doctors, distribute money, control costs, and reduce diagnosis. Probably, such an overwhelming concern with these strategies can provoke the greater interest of the public and the government in the main pitfalls of the health care system.

To meet the challenge, the authors propose to integrate new ideology, calling for entrepreneurial managers, activist consumers, and advanced technologies that map out the new dimension of healthcare that creates new sources of influence. Competition is another vital issue that should bring improvement to the medical system. Indeed, creating a healthy competition can become the key to the survival of American healthcare. Although the book resorts to a profound criticism of Medicaid and health care insurance, the cold evaluation of the issue would be much more efficient.


Barlett, D. L., & Steele, J. B. (2004). Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business – and Bad Medicine. US: Crown Publishing Group.

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