The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto
How to Get the Most for Your Money
by Deborah Dove Gordon
February 2020, 281pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7404-8
$65, £50, 57€, A90
Paperback: 978-1-4408-7755-1
$50, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7405-5
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An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year in the U.S. because of medical issues and bills.

A health care executive at Harvard explains how to become a savvy consumer and get the value we all deserve for our health care spending.

This book navigates and demystifies the confusing world of health care shopping. Readers go on a guided tour inside American health care to learn why it is so messy, and who is invested in keeping it that way. The text offers a new vision of how health care could work if it were truly designed to meet consumer needs, creating a call to action on how to demand and help create such a system.

A wake-up call to an industry tenuously holding on to the status quo and ripe for true disruption, this book outlines what consumers can do themselves and demand from doctors, hospitals, health plans, and policy makers to get more for their health care spending and, in so doing, reshape the health care system into one we all deserve. Using real and compelling consumer stories intertwined with expert analysis, this book illustrates why it is so difficult to act as an engaged health care consumer in the United States and pulls back the curtain to expose the forces that hold the system in place.


  • Covers finding and reading health care price tags, negotiating health care costs, navigating the system, choosing and using health insurance, evaluating quality, and more
  • Answers the most common consumer health care question: what should I do?
  • Arms consumers with information—and permission—to question, self-advocate, seek, and extract value for their health care dollars
  • Offers captivating and relatable real-world consumer stories to make health care concepts clear
  • Shows consumers what they can do to make sure they get the care and coverage needed
Deborah Dove Gordon, MBA, is a seasoned health care executive, marketing expert, and thought leader. As a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Business and Government, she conducted extensive research on health care consumerism and writes and advises companies on health care consumer strategies at the intersection of policy and practice.


2020 INDIES Finalist, Health (Adult Nonfiction)—Foreword, March 12, 2021


"A sassy, upbeat manifesto for how Americans should get more from health care."—Camilla Cavendish, author, Extra Time: Ten Lessons for an Aging World

"Deb Gordon takes a fresh look at health care spending in the U.S. She breaks through the mystery of health care and shows how people can thrive in the health system."—David Cutler, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, Harvard University

"Like a trusted friend who knows exactly what she’s talking about, Deb Gordon guides us masterfully through the health care maze . . . encouraging and empowering consumers to navigate their own unique challenges. There is hope! We need this book more than ever."—Jane Clayson Johnson, former ABC and CBS news correspondent and co-host of CBS's The Early Show; author, Silent Souls Weeping

"As a patient and a medical provider, I am grateful for this book. It is packed with wisdom and practical advice with the power to improve the health care experience, and ultimately health outcomes, for all. Through personal stories, it captures the essence of what is broken in health care today—a system built on the flawed assumption that the doctor always knows best—and reminds us that we all have the ability and the right to speak out and be heard."—Annie Brewster, MD, founder and executive director, Health Story Collaborative; assistant professor, Harvard Medical School; associate physician, Massachusetts General Hospital

"We are in a consumer-driven economy. Many of us spend more time thinking about our next cup of coffee than we do our own health care. The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto takes a close look at health care today and shines a light on how consumers can and should be more active and informed about their well-being."—Paul Matsen, chief marketing and communications officer, Cleveland Clinic

"Finally, a guide to health care written entirely with the consumer’s priorities in mind. Deborah Dove Gordon has given us a richly informative, ultra-practical guide with a wealth of useful information from how to get price transparency on health care procedures to how we can use our consumer power to change the system as a whole. Empowering, honest, and refreshingly straightforward, this is one of those books that will likely pay for itself hundreds of times over in avoided costs."—Shannon Coulter, president, Grab Your Wallet Alliance

"Deb Gordon does away with tired old arguments against price transparency and goes right to the heart of the matter: where else would consumers be expected to pay without first knowing the price? This book shines a bright spotlight on the secrecy and confusion around health care pricing, and shows consumers how they can get to the price information they need to make informed health care choices."—Barbara Anthony, Pioneer Institute, Senior Fellow in healthcare and former Massachusetts Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

"At a critical time in the transformation of the American health care system, Deb Gordon provides a terrific libretto for this most complex and incomprehensible opera. She brilliantly empowers American consumers to better access and demand real value and quality for what are truly the most important services and products that they can access for their families and themselves."—Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, MBA, professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; former president and CEO, Partners Healthcare System; former CEO, Partners in Health

"For markets to function properly, consumers need access to information about prices and quality as well as meaningful choice. This ‘Manifesto’ doesn’t just document how badly these conditions fail in health care, it explains why our current system won’t deliver better outcomes unless health care consumers become a force for change."—Susan Athey, economics of technology professor, Stanford University Graduate School of Business

"In The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto, Deborah Gordon explores in depth the fact that despite spending over a trillion dollars and rising out of pocket on health care, we rarely use our power as consumers to get the best quality and lower price. She explores why this is currently so, why this is changing, and what consumers can do to hasten this change. A must read for anyone who has been frustrated with the experience, quality, or cost of health care in the U.S.; and for providers, payers and policy makers to prepare for the new world to come."—Rushika Fernandopulle, MD, MPP, CEO, Iora Health

"Deb Gordon has captured the pain of dealing with health care and how it can be worse than the pain of illness itself for consumers. Until we align the interests of patients, payers and providers in new models of payment and care delivery, we will continue to see consumers challenged by the illogical and unkind structures of a system built for a different time. New market entrants recognize the importance of consumer experience and trust; traditional health care entities must begin to think of consumers as customers who are paying for a third of health care expenditures or more. The book brings readers deep into consumer mindsets, revealing the depth to which consumers are struggling with their evolving role as health care buyers. Anyone trying to understand what it means to be engaged in the American health care system, especially as a consumer, should read this book and think hard about how to rebuild a system that is meant to treat the hearts and minds of consumers, but has lost touch with those organs along the way."—Lisa Suennen, venture capital investor, industry advisor, entrepreneur, and leading voice in digital health; author, Venture Valkyrie blog; cohost, Tech Tonics podcast; cofounder, CSweetener; Rock Health Top Digital Health Evangelist (2018); University of California Berkeley Haas faculty member

"This is an important book that serves as a call to action from every health care consumer, because it addresses the most critical issue with our health care system, cost of care and how empowered patients must begin to take charge of their personal experiences with the system. Full of poignant anecdotal stories, The Healthcare Consumer’s Manifesto includes excellent guidelines on how to determine and negotiate the cost of a procedure or treatment; how to understand the parameters of various insurance programs; and most importantly how to assert your voice as an activated e-patient. For every individual who is frustrated with the system and grappling with how to manage their cost of care, this is a must read."—Nancy B. Finn, health care journalist, author of e-Patients Live Longer: The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology and Digital Communication in Medical Practice

"Health care is bankrupting the American Dream and hyper-inflating personal and business health care costs are crippling the middle class and any possibilities for millennials to thrive as entrepreneurs. In this book Deborah Gordon nails it, identifying the primary individual solution to this financial epidemic as consumer engagement—each individual must become an Engaged Health Care Consumer and this book provides a road map to make that a reality for the reader."—Dr. Josh Luke, hospital CEO, health care futurist and three-time best-selling author; adjunct faculty, University of Southern California

"Written in lucid and engaging prose, Deb Gordon’s compelling book offers a perceptive insight into an aspect of the U.S. health care system that is not often examined—in essence, how much does health care really cost and can we have a choice in determining what we pay for? These are questions that cut across continents albeit particularly pertinent in the USA, which has one of the most expensive health care systems in the world. Deb’s book is a must read for everyone with interest in the economics of health care, in short, everyone!"—Bosede B. Afolabi, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
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