STARRED REVIEW

The Purple World: Healing the Harm in American Health Care
Joseph Q. Jarvis, M.D., MSPH
Scrivener Books, 196 pages, (paperback) $13.95, 9780998625485
(Reviewed: July, 2019)

 

Joseph Q. Jarvis has been examining America’s broken health-care system as a doctor and public health official for 40 years, and he has a sensible, reasoned prescription to fix what ails it, all detailed in his valuable and persuasive book, The Purple World.
Non-ideological and straight-talking, Jarvis has provided patient care and negotiated with HMO executives, qualifying him to assess all sides of our behemoth system. His diagnosis is not surprising: Americans don’t have the best health care, only the most profitable. The “medical industry complex,” he writes, exerts a “public policy vise” on Congress, which allows insurance companies to transfer the growing price of care to patients. Medicine has been reduced to a business opportunity, but one cannot maximize profits and optimize care, he argues.

His prescription? States should start seizing power from Washington and offer comprehensive, publicly financed health benefits to every citizen. Among his recommendations: enrollment should be easy, even automatic; patients should have a choice of doctors and no out of-pocket expenses; and those with mental illness and addiction should no longer be criminalized. He convincingly explains exactly how this will save money and improve care, partly by introducing social accountability – putting patients above profit– into health care delivery.

Jarvis isn’t all policy wonk, though. He explains why he left family practice to find purpose as a public health officer in Nevada. He relates many entertaining and educational stories, such as how his agency tried to address indoor air pollution in the Nevada state legislative building, but one three-pack-a-day smoker in the senate (Marvin Sedway) resisted all efforts to restrict smoking on his side.
Jarvis brings quiet authority to his unabashed crusade for change, most recently as a Republican candidate (unsuccessful) for the Utah state senate and creator of a non-profit organization providing credible information to the public. Voters must shun party labels and become “purple,” he argues. Amazingly, he makes change seem not only smart, but feasible.

Also available as an ebook and audio book.