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Why U.S. Health Care Costs So Damn Much

Nothing gets the FiveThirtyEight science staff pumped up quite like health care policy, which is why this is a particularly exciting episode of Sparks, our science podcast (which publishes in our What’s The Point feed). This month we discuss “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back,” a new book by Elisabeth Rosenthal. Rosenthal, a physician and journalist, examines the history of the U.S. health care system, explaining why the country’s care is incredibly expensive compared with that of other developed nations, and offers ways for patients to push back against those costs.

In the podcast, lead health writer Anna Maria Barry-Jester, lead science writer Christie Aschwanden and senior editor Blythe Terrell talked through some of these issues and wrestled with the question of what could be done on a policy level to hack away at health care costs.

The second part of the podcast, featuring Anna’s interview with Rosenthal, is below:


Last month, we told you that our next book would be “The Hunt for Vulcan” by Thomas Levenson. As you can see … it did not wind up being our next book. But now it really will be up next! Our podcast on Levenson’s book will be headed your way next month, so if you haven’t grabbed a copy to read along, there’s still time.

Blythe Terrell is a former senior editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Christie Aschwanden was a lead science writer for FiveThirtyEight. Her book “Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery” is available here.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester is a senior reporter at Kaiser Health News and California Healthline, and formerly a reporter for FiveThirtyEight.