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About The Book

“Nuila’s storytelling gifts place him alongside colleagues like Atul Gawande.” —Los Angeles Times

This “compelling mixture of health care policy and gripping stories from the frontlines of medicine” (The Guardian) explores the question: where does an uninsured person go when turned away by hospitals, clinics, and doctors?

Here, we follow the lives of five uninsured Houstonians as their struggle for survival leads them to a hospital that prioritizes people over profit. First, we meet Stephen, the restaurant franchise manager who signed up for his company’s lowest priced plan, only to find himself facing insurmountable costs after a cancer diagnosis. Then Christian—a young college student and retail worker who can’t seem to get an accurate diagnosis, let alone treatment, for his debilitating knee pain. Geronimo, thirty-six years old, has liver failure, but his meager disability check disqualifies him for Medicaid—and puts a life-saving transplant just out of reach. Roxana, who’s lived in the community without a visa for more than two decades, suffers from complications related to her cancer treatment. And finally, there’s Ebonie, a young mother whose high-risk pregnancy endangers her life. Whether due to immigration status, income, or the vagaries of state Medicaid law, all five are denied access to care. For all five, this exclusion could prove life-threatening.

Each patient eventually lands at Ben Taub, the county hospital where Dr. Nuila has worked for over a decade. Nuila delves with empathy into the experiences of his patients, braiding their dramas into a singular narrative that contradicts the established idea that the only way to receive good health care is with good insurance. As readers follow the moving twists and turns in each patient’s story, it’s impossible to deny that our system is broken—and that Ben Taub’s innovative model, where patient care is more important than insurance payments, could help light the path forward.

About The Author

Photograph by Jonas Mohr

Dr. Ricardo Nuila is a writer, teacher, and practicing doctor. He is an associate professor of medicine, medical ethics, and health policy at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Humanities Expression and Arts Lab [HEAL] program.  

About The Reader

Photograph by Jonas Mohr

Dr. Ricardo Nuila is a writer, teacher, and practicing doctor. He is an associate professor of medicine, medical ethics, and health policy at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Humanities Expression and Arts Lab [HEAL] program.  

Why We Love It

“Dr. Ricardo Nuila has given us a character-driven, intimate story about the Harris Health System and Ben Taub Hospital, in Houston, Texas, and those the hospital serves. Through patient stories—patients who are un- or underinsured—readers learn how we got to this point, in which we deny access to care to over 26 million Americans. Nuila follows five patients, at moments of acute medical crisis, as they try to save their own lives without the golden ticket of health insurance. One of the few places that’s possible: a public, safety-net hospital like Ben Taub. Readers will be moved and angered and inspired by this compassionate and graceful book—and will question the current state of affairs, whether insured or uninsured.”

—Kathy B., VP, Editorial Director, on The People’s Hospital

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (March 14, 2023)
  • Runtime: 10 hours and 53 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797151915

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Raves and Reviews

"Physician Ricardo Nuila brings the full extent of his passion for people to his narration of his experiences with American healthcare. A doctor on staff at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Nuila saw firsthand the destructive aspects of for-profit healthcare and how often those who were truly suffering would end up in his public hospital when it was almost too late. Examining the history and current issues of the American healthcare system, this audiobook is a tough listen. Nuila embraces his emotions as he tells personal stories of real-life cases. What results is a powerful audiobook that leaves the listener both fascinated and horrified by what is happening to those who cannot access healthcare in our first-world nation."

– AudioFile Magazine

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