Wow, this was good.
Incorporating journal research, literature and original interviews, Mahar describes the myriad conflicts within the health care industry that drive up spending, and why that spending buys so little. The chapters on for-profit hospitals and ineffective treatment are particularly good, the latter should be required reading for anyone who utters the phrase "death panel". I like that the book is rich in sources, most of the articles are as relevant today as they were in 2006. Here is one favorite:
There is no formal rationing system in the U.S., with its complex mix of private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid coverage, plus 41 million uninsured people who pay for their own care or get treated as charity cases. But in fact, health-care rationing occurs every day in the U.S., in thousands of big and small decisions, made mostly out of sight of patients, according to rules that often aren't consistently applied.The people who make these decisions are harried doctors, Medicaid functionaries, hospital administrators, insurance workers and nurses. These are the gatekeepers of the American health-care system, the ones forced to say "no" to certain demands for treatment.
"The Big Secret in Health Care: Rationing is Here" Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2003
This book is an excellent place to start for those interested in understanding health care costs, I strongly recommend.