Media Mix Column Book Review — Making A Killing: HMOs and The Threat To Your Health (Common Courage Press, 1999)

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Los Angeles Times

There aren’t many people who understand the flaws of HMO medicine better than Jamie Court, a tireless consumer activist who is co-founder of Consumers for Quality Care, a health-care watchdog organization that operates under the umbrella of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica.

And his book–co-written with Francis Smith, president of Future Strategies, a public-policy consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass.–provides one of the most descriptive records of the horrors of HMO medicine during the 1990s, with numerous stories of individuals who were denied care or had to fight their HMOs for coverage of medical services. Court and Smith make a compelling case for the absurdity of a health-care system based on the concept of minimizing care to increase profits and please shareholders. They reveal how and why most HMOs have broken their early promises to control costs and reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

The problem with “Making a Killing” is that it has a slightly outdated feel. Most of the stories of HMO abuses are old news and date to the mid-1990s. It might have been more helpful to examine the state of HMOs in more recent years and to expand the discussion on why reform efforts have failed. Although the section on HMO reform is brief, the authors remind readers that all is not lost. This year’s presidential elections are crucial to health-care financing’s fate in the next decade.

Also relegated to the last pages of the book is a useful guide on how consumers can protect themselves from HMO abuses.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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