Health care bills are slowly making their way through both chambers of Congress. Last night the House passed a $1.1 trillion bill that would insure an additional 35 million Americans. Importantly, the bill makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny health insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, or to cancel your policy if you develop an expensive disease.
The House bill also calls for a ‘public option’, or government-sponsored health plan available for individual purchase. This isn’t thought likely to survive a Senate vote.
While I was being interviewed on XM Satellite’s Book Radio last week, a caller expressed dismay at the proposed level of government intervention in health care. I sympathized with his point of view. While writing House of Hope and Fear I learned that Seattle’s public hospital, Harborview, remained financially healthy in spite of very little government funding. How? Partly because the hospital needs to compete for business with every other hospital in town. Public hospitals operating primarily on the dole don’t do nearly as well.
But the free market isn’t a cure-all. Private sector success has increasingly come from excluding sick people from needed health care. Nearly one in six Americans is now inadequately insured, or not insured at all, and the problem is only growing worse. No doubt health care reform will be expensive. But doing nothing could cost even more. We pay for universal health care now, and in the priciest way possible — through our Emergency Rooms. This year’s health care bills won’t solve all of our problems, but they look to be a reasonable start.
Check out this latest review of House of Hope and Fear: Life in a Big City Hospital, which was published in today’s Bellingham Herald.
I love author readings at Elliott Bay Books. The reading space is on the lower level, behind the cafe, and when I was a medical student I would take a break from studying and head down there to listen to writers read from their new books. Among those I heard read was Ethan Canin, whose marvelous book The Palace Thief had just come out. Canin is a physician who writes full time now and teaches at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
While signing my books, he talked about how the intensity of medical practice could inhibit creativity, and he advised me to take long stretches of time away from medicine to write. “The imagination is such a fragile thing,” he said. Partly because of his advice, I took a year off after finishing medical school. That’s when wrote my first book, What Patients Taught Me. I’ve also incorporated his advice into career choices; it’s one reason I opted to practice medicine as a part-time hospitalist.
So, no surprise, I feel a strong connection with the author space at Elliott Bay Books, and I had a wonderful time at my own reading there last week. It was terrific to see familiar faces not only from Harborview, several of whom figure prominently in the book, but also from other times and places in my life.
In case you missed it, the reading aired on KUOW 94.9 FM on August 27, 2009. Here’s the audio archive.
Good news — the House of Hope and Fear debuted at #12 on this week’s Pacific Northwest Indie Bestseller List!
It’s been a busy seven days. Last Friday just as House of Hope and Fear was arriving in stores, I drove to Olympia, Wash., for an appearance at the Barnes & Noble there. I read from several stories, including one about a woman who delayed medical attention because she lacked health insurance, and became extremely ill. This ignited a terrific discussion with the audience about health care reform.
This past Tuesday I went on the local NPR affiliate, KUOW 90.3, where the advertised topic was life in a big city hospital, but what we really talked about for most of the hour was — yup — health care reform. Also on the show were an ER physician and an ER nurse, who see firsthand how bad it is for patients with no health insurance.
Tonight I’ll be reading at my favorite bookstore on the planet, Elliott Bay Books, where House of Hope and Fear has been selected as a staff pick. KUOW radio will be taping the event to air at a later date. I’ll tell a few stories, then open up the floor for Q & A. Got something to say about health care reform? I’m ready. Bring it on.
It’s here! I’ve got an actual hard copy of House of Hope and Fear in my hot little hands, and it’s just become available on amazon.com.
So here’s a funny little something about book publishing: a book’s official publication date is mostly a cue signaling the beginning of a book’s publicity campaign. By that date, most books have been in stores for days, if not weeks. The official pub date for House of Hope and Fear is August 15, for example, but “publication” is already happening, zip code by zip code, as the book is shipped to sellers.
So it’ll be in local bookstores sometime this week and everywhere else by early August. Exciting times!
This spring I had the chance to work with four smart undergrads at Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma. The students read a pre-publication copy of House of Hope and Fear and were tasked with creating materials to help promote the book for its upcoming launch. A couple weeks ago we met for their final presentation, and among the many creative suggestions was that I set up an online resource for those interested in learning about health care reform.
Fabulous. I was so excited to hear that House of Hope and Fear inspired them to learn more and get involved, I thought I’d run with their idea. So check back periodically as I get the “Get Informed” and “Get Involved” sections of this blog up and running.