Book Review: The Primal Prescription

It’s a bit of a rarity for me to write a book review. Let me qualify that. This is the first I’ve written beyond the paragraph comments provided for the various books I have so far recommended under my “Recommended Books” page.

But why not start somewhere? I’ve always had a bit of an interest in it.

I have recently finished reading The Primal Prescription: Surviving the ‘Sick Care’ Sink Hole (© 2014)¹ by Doug McGuff and Robert Murphy. McGuff is a Medical Doctor with years of experience working in the Emergency Room, while Robert Murphy is an economist with the Free Market Institute of Texas Tech University, the author of numerous books and the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, ContraKrugman (listed on my “Recommended Podcasts” page).

The Primal Prescription serves two major purposes and is divided accordingly.

First, the authors draw on Murphy’s economic insights to explain and analyze the complete history of health care in the United States and how things have progressed to what we have today, from wage and price controls in World War II to EMTALA under Reagan and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) under Obama. They break down the effects of various laws, and spend several chapters showing how the ACA “works.”  Additionally, they show the process of new drug approval and the relationships between what has notoriously become known as “Big Pharma” and the FDA. And here’s a shocker. For everyone who says, “the free market is broken in healthcare,” you’ll find that it’s not so much the free market, but rather intervention and “tweaking” over the last century that have, in their attempt to “correct” for various problems and perceived problems, caused many unintended “side-effects” in the health care and health insurance markets that needed further and further intervention and tweaking.

In this thorough analysis and exceptional insight into the healthcare and health insurance markets, McGuff and Murphy’s examination is replete with statistics. These are not cherry-picked; they draw largely on the numbers offered by the Congressional Budget Office. And in so doing they show the clear unsustainability of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and the progression of American medicine toward a Canada- or Britain-style single-payer system (the “public option”). This was the ultimate goal that then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed with Journalist Steve Sebelius when he said, “We had a real good run at the public option” and “ObamaCare is a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work.” (Video link to that interview here.)

The information is thorough and detailed; bring a highlighter.

The second half of the book transitions into a unique insight on how to both try and avoid the healthcare system as much as possible through a Paleo-style diet and lifestyle, but also to know how to navigate the system effectively. It is in this section where where Doctor McGuff’s experience is paramount. Covering topics from choosing a physician to navigating a hospital stay, getting off medications and whether or not to choose screening procedures, there is no shortage of helpful revelation and advice.

If you’re looking for a book that both explains the economics of healthcare and health insurance and lays out how to navigate both in a way that avoids getting trapped by either, then The Primal Prescription is well worth your while. And ultimately, as one who believes firmly in individual responsibility (as opposed to expecting others to give things to you), we ought to be well-armed with understanding in order to make wise and informed decisions in an environment where healthcare and health insurance are becoming increasingly complex, convoluted and expensive, both in time and money.

(¹A note on commissions: I do not earn commission sales on books I link to on Amazon. There are a handful of states that Amazon is not allowed to pay commission to residents of, and I happen to live in one of those states. So I am not linking to books or recommending them for any financial income, at least not at this point under the current rules.)

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