NPLB Book Club

What We're Reading: Everything from Healthcare Policy to How to Win Insurance Approval

September 13, 2021


Learn with us: how medicines are made, how their prices are set, and -- perhaps most important of all -- how to get insurance to pay for them. Also what can be done to rescue America’s healthcare system and, with it, keep us all healthier. 

Here are some titles we like, with reviews included. More to come. 

Happy reading. We hope you enjoy curling up with them as much as we did.

Bottle of Lies

The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom (2019)

By Katherine Eban

Bottle of Lies exposes the deceit behind generic drug manufacturing—and the attendant risks for global health. Drawing on exclusive accounts from whistleblowers and regulators, as well as thousands of pages of confidential FDA documents, Eban reveals an industry where fraud is rampant, companies routinely falsify data, and executives circumvent almost every principle of safe manufacturing to minimize cost and maximize profit, confident in their ability to fool inspectors. Meanwhile, patients unwittingly consume medicine with unpredictable and dangerous effects. 

Out-of-Pocket Report

NPR / Fresh Air


Deadly Spin

An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans (2010)

By Wendell Potter

In Deadly Spin, Potter takes readers behind the scenes of the insurance industry to show how a huge chunk of our absurd healthcare expenditures actually bankrolls a propaganda campaign and lobbying effort focused on protecting one thing: profits. From the unique vantage point of both a whistleblower and a high-powered former insider, Potter moves beyond the healthcare crisis to show how public relations works and how it has come to play a massive, often insidious role in our political process--and our lives. 


New York Times

Publishers Weekly


The Unbranding of Modern Medicine (2014)

By Jeremy A. Greene

Claims of generic equivalence, as physician-historian Jeremy Greene reveals, are never based on a new drug being identical to the original in all respects, but in being the same in all ways that matter...Generic is the first book to chronicle the social, political, and cultural history of generic drugs in America.

Project Muse

Publishers Weekly


The Great American Drug Deal

A new Prescription for Innovative and Affordable Medicines (2020)

By Peter Kolchinsky

The Great American Drug Deal offers clear-eyed scrutiny of all players in the industry and examines vital ideas for closing loopholes, encouraging investment, dealing with bad actors, and educating consumers. It’s time we resolve to support patients and fuel discoveries that ease suffering now and for generations to come.



City Journal

Never Pay the First Bill

And Other Ways to Fight the Health Care System and Win (2021)

By Marshall Allen

Never Pay the First Bill is a guerrilla guide to dealing with medical bills, health insurance, hospital systems and debt collectors. Allen, an investigative journalist who has spent 15-plus years digging into the U.S. healthcare system, synthesizes everything he’s learned in this easy-to-read, easy-to-follow, how-to book. It’s chock full of lists, sample letters, and the words to say to get that no turned into a yes or a bill reduced (or even forgiven). Aimed at all patients and every employer that provides health insurance to its workers, it’s both manifesto and manual, with understandable outrage and common sense solutions. 

Out-of-Pocket Report

National Public Radio

New York Journal of Books

The Price We Pay

What Broke American Healthcare--And How to Fix It (2019)

By Marty Makary

In this thoroughly reported primer, Makary authoritatively and conversationally explains the money games of medicine...He found that working Americans feel that the system is stacked against them; it seems that they're right...Consider this book a powerful call to action for more information about health costs and for restoring the 'noble mission' of treating everyone with fairness and dignity. 

Book Browse

Washington Post


Priced Out

The Economic and Ethical Costs of American Health Care (2019)

By Uwe Reinhardt

Famously bipartisan, [Reinhardt] advised presidents and Congress on health reform and originated central features of the Affordable Care Act. In Priced Out, Reinhardt offers an engaging and enlightening account of today's U.S. health care system, explaining why it costs so much more and delivers so much less than the systems of every other advanced country, why this situation is morally indefensible, and how we might improve it. 


Good Reads 

Providence Journal 

Compiled by Lynda Gorov 

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