Critical Condition

How Health Care in America Became Big Business--and Bad Medicine

by Donald L. Barlett, James B. Steele

Exposing the most controversial, little-known practices of America’s most flawed system, Time magazine’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team pulls back the curtain on the health care industry to explain exactly how things grew so out of control.

Dirty examination and operating rooms in doctor’s offices and hospitals . . . Health care executives pulling in millions in bonuses for denying treatment to the sick . . . More than 100 million people with inadequate or no medical coverage . . . This may sound like the predicament of a third-world nation, but this is America’s health care reality today. The U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation, yet our benefits are shrinking and life expectancy is shorter here than in countries that spend significantly less per capita. Meanwhile, HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, and hospital chains reap tremendous profits, while politicians—beholden to insurers and drug companies—enact legislation for the benefit of the few rather than the many, while the entire system is on the verge of collapse.

In CRITICAL CONDITION, award-winning investigative journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele expose the horror of what health care in America has become. They profile patients and doctors trapped by the system and offer startling personal stories that illuminate what’s gone wrong. Doctors tell of being second-guessed and undermined by health care insurers; nurses recount chilling tales of hospital meltdowns; patients explain how they’ve been victimized by a system that is meant to care for them. Drug companies profit by selling pills in the same manner that Madison Avenue sells soap, while Wall Street rakes in billions by building up and then tearing down health care businesses. And politicians pass legislation perpetuating the injustices and out-right fraud the system encourages.

By analyzing the industry and offering an insightful prescription for getting it back on the right track, CRITICAL CONDITION is an enormously compelling investigative work that addresses the concerns of every American.

  • Crown/Archetype; October 2004
  • ISBN: 9780385504553
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: Critical Condition
  • Author: Donald L. Barlett; James B. Steele
  • Imprint: Broadway Books

In The Press


“They are almost certainly the best team in the history of investigative reporting.”
Washington Journalism Review

“Instead of just reporting still unproven accusations and focusing on individual corruption, [they reveal] with expert analysis and thorough documentation what has systematically gone wrong with the powerful, complex institutions that affect so much of life today.”
—Leonard Downie, Jr., author of The New Muckrakers: An Inside Look at America’s Investigative Reporters


“Once or twice in a generation, the American people are jolted by a book that helps bring about major change. America: What Went Wrong. . . is a monumental achievement. . . ”
Chicago Sun-Times

“Barlett and Steele have incisively and vividly defined the problem facing the nation. . . ”
The New York Times

America: What Went Wrong? probably is the most complete and revealing piece of reporting since turn-of-the-century muckrakers shocked the nation with descriptions of inhuman working conditions and big city political machines.”
Maine Sunday Telegram

“It is easy to see why America: What Went Wrong? is quite simply some of the best American news reporting in years. . . The authors have done a great service to the public by accumulating all this vital information in such a clear and simple manner.”
—Boston Phoenix

About The Author

DONALD L. BARLETT and JAMES B. STEELE are America’s most widely acclaimed investigative journalism team. They have worked together for three decades, first at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and, since 1997, as editors at large for Time. They are the only journalists in history to have won two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards, as well as dozens of other national awards. They are the coauthors of six books, including America: What Went Wrong?, which spent eight months on the New York Times bestseller list.