The 26 best books to read if you want to shape healthcare policy, according to top DC power players in the $3.5 trillion industry


Power Players of DC Healthcare 4X3 v_2

  • For the first time, Business Insider has put together a list of DC healthcare power players who are shaping healthcare policy and legislation in Washington.
  • With healthcare policy taking center stage in the political arena, Business Insider asked the nominees for book recommendations for people looking to make a difference in healthcare policy.
  • We asked: What is your best book recommendation for people who want to change health policy? And why? 
  • Here are the top book picks.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Healthcare policy is taking center stage in the political arena.

With debates over Medicare for All, drug pricing, better patient care, and ending surprise billing it can be difficult to know where to begin when wanting to understand and address healthcare policy.

We asked the honorees on Business Insider’s first-ever list of DC healthcare power players to provide book recommendations. In particular: What is your best book recommendation for people who want to change health policy? And why? 

Read more: Meet the 34 DC healthcare power players who shape the rules for a $3.5 trillion industry that touches every American

The books they suggested range from memoirs to textbooks to deeply reported investigations. Here are their top picks.

Joseph Zeballos-Roig contributed reporting.

“The Health Care Handbook” by Elisabeth Askin and Nathan Moore

Recommended by Matthew Eyles, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

“To change health policy and reform our incredibly complex healthcare system, we need to understand how it truly works. This is a terrific book and starting point for anyone who wants to understand the US healthcare system and use health policy to change and improve health care affordability and quality for all Americans,” Eyles told Business Insider.

Buy it here.

“One Man’s Full Life” by Earl E. Bakken

Recommended by Scott Whitaker, the CEO and president of AdvaMed, the trade association that represents medical device manufacturers. 

Buy it here.

“Eyes to the Wind” by Ady Barkan

Recommended by Bonnie Castillo, the executive director of National Nurses United. 

“Ady Barkan, an incredible activist and dying patient, recently released this memoir, which brings us back to the very human reason we need Medicare for All,” Castillo told Business Insider. 

Castillo also recommends to watch Barkan’s new video series “Uncovered.” 

Buy it here.

“The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less” by Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor

Recommended by Nicole Cooper, vice president of social responsibility at United Healthcare. 

“This book provides a strong overview of what is termed the US ‘healthcare paradox’— the fact that the US is the only developed nation spending more on medical care than on social services, despite the growing recognition that 80% of what affects a person’s health is social in nature,” Cooper told Business Insider. “The book provides a great view into how flipping the US healthcare spending trend to address the social determinants of health could improve US health outcomes.” 

Buy it here.

“Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown

Recommended by Lauren Conaboy, the vice president of national policy at Centerstone, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health and addiction treatment services.

“There is this on-going thread [in the book] around showing up with integrity and assuming the best intent in the people around you (which, admittedly, can be challenging when policy work gets tough in D.C),” Conaboy told Business Insider. “The book is also quite practical and talks about how to operationalize good leadership values in day to day work.”

Buy it here.

“Where Does it Hurt?: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing Health Care” by Jonathan Bush and Stephen Baker

Recommended by Avik Roy, a leading conservative voice on healthcare through the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP) – a nonprofit think-tank he cofounded. 

“Jonathan Bush is one of the few people writing about healthcare policy who understands that the best way to reform health care is to reject the false dogma that the laws of economics get magically suspended when you walk through the hospital door,” Roy told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.

“Breakthrough” by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg

Recommended by Jane Adams, vice president of federal government affairs and Canada at Johnson & Johnson.

“As a Type 1 diabetic for almost 40 years, I was riveted by ‘Breakthrough’ which follows the life of Elizabeth Hughes as a child in New York and the ultimate discovery of insulin through the use of dogs leading to the Banting/Best Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1921,” Adams told Business Insider. “As a patient who has survived because of this research – I was emotional, grateful and astounded by the passion and drive by these scientists, physicians, researchers.” 

Buy it here.

“Health Care Reboot: Megatrends Energizing American Medicine” by Michael J. Dowling and Charles Kenney

The book is recommended by Rick J. Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. 

“Health Care Reboot outlines the current healthcare environment and provides a framework for the ways in which these trends create opportunities for providers and payers, but most importantly, for patients,” Pollack told Business Insider. 

Buy it here. 

“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman

The book is recommended by Mara Kim Youdelman, managing attorney of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP).

“In addition to working on Medicaid and the ACA, I work on civil rights and language access,” Youdelman told Business Insider. “To me, this book really speaks to the need for our healthcare system and everyone in it to meet patients and their families where they are, provide patient/family-centered care, and ensure cultural and linguistic issues and identified and appropriately addressed.” 

Buy it here.

“Health Justice Now: Single Payer and What Comes Next” by Timothy Faust

The book recommendation is by Marissa Barrera who handles the healthcare portfolio for Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee and has worked on Medicare for All legislation for Senator Bernie Sanders. 

“Tim Faust has traveled the country hosting Medicare for All town halls in nearly all 50 states. His book is easy to digest, he has a great sense of humor, and, most importantly, he places health policy in the larger context of social justice,” Barrera told Business Insider.

Buy it here.

“Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Change” by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky

Recommended by Elizabeth G. Taylor, executive director of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP). 

Buy it here.

“The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point” by Haynes Johnson and David S. Broder

This book was recommended by three people: Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals; Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation; and Sarah Dash, CEO and president of The Alliance for Health Policy.

“This deep dive into the failed attempt to pass ClintonCare in the early 90’s outlines the pitfalls of crafting comprehensive health legislation. By highlighting how and why the plan failed, the book really lays out a roadmap for creating successful health policy in the future. It is a cautionary tale, filled with valuable lessons,” Kahn told Business Insider.

Buy it here.

“Doctored” by Sandeep Jauhar

The book is recommended by Farzard Mostashari, the CEO of Aledade.

The book “is still the best real-world description of how ‘fee for service’ reimbursement is harming the patient-physician relationship, and bankrupting America all at once,” Mostashari told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.

“Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age” by Jo Ann Jenkins

The book is recommended by Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP, a group that advocates on behalf of older Americans.

“If it’s not too self-referential, I’m proud of ‘Disrupt Aging,’ a book I wrote a couple of years ago, which examines what it means to take control of your health,” Jenkins told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.


“The Price We Pay” by Marty Makary

This book was recommended by Ceci Connolly, the president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, and James Gelfand. the senior vice president of health policy at ERIC.

“It’s an unvarnished look at much of what’s wrong with our health system today and some inspiring bright spots to illuminate the path forward,” Connolly told Business Insider. 

“Marty gets it,” Gelfand told Business Insider. “You cannot fix our broken system just by tweaking various dials… there needs to be an awakening among patients and providers, and a purging of bad actors, misaligned incentives, and antiquated opaque systems.”

Buy it here.

“The Politics of Medicare” by Theodore Marmor

The book is recommended by Eric Zimmerman, the global head of the health practice at McDermott Will & Emery.

“It chronicles the creation story of Medicare, and the politics and stakeholders that made doing it so difficult. It’s important to know your history. Fifty-plus years later, health policy is affected by some of those same politics and stakeholders,” Zimmerman told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.

“All Politics is Local and Other Rules of the Game” by Tip O’Neill

Recommended by Jonathan Heafitz, the vice president of federal affairs for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA).

“While an unconventional choice, in health policy, particularly at the federal advocacy level, one needs to understand the politics of personal relationships and how to relate to Members of Congress and their staff,” Heafitz told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.

“Priced Out: The Economic and Ethical Costs of American Health Care” by Uwe E. Reinhardt

This book was recommended by Jane Adams, vice president of federal government affairs and Canada at Johnson & Johnson, and by Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

“[Reinhardt] spent his incredible career screaming from the mountaintop about how badly our healthcare system is broken and needs fixing,” Salo told Business Insider. “Speaking truth to power, and trying to change an industry that has become 18% of the nation’s GDP is never easy, but that never stopped him.”

Buy it here.

“It’s the Prices, Stupid” by Uwe E. Reinhardt

The reading is recommended by Justine Handelman, the senior vice president of the Office of Policy and Representation for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

“While not a book, the late Uwe Reinhard’s ‘It’s the Price Stupid,’ is the best resource for those wanting to change health policy,” Handelman told Business Insider. 

Read it here.

“An American Sickness” by Elisabeth Rosenthal

Recommended by Marie Fishpaw, the director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and educational institution.

“The book cuts to the core of our health care problem—our system doesn’t work for patients, thanks to flawed government policies,” Fishpaw told Business Insider. “I don’t agree with every part of the book, but it’s a must-read for people who want to help empower patients to get the care they need.” 

Buy it here.

“Targeting in Social Programs” by Peter H. Schuck and Richard J. Zeckhauser

Recommended by Sayeh Nikpay, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University.

“This book provides a strong economic framework to understand how policymakers can fine-tune policies to maximize social goals,” Nikpay told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.

“Overcharged: Why Americans Pay Too Much for Health Care” by Charles Silver and David A. Hyman

Recommended by Joe Grogan who is director of President Donald Trump’s Domestic Policy Council.

“‘Overcharged’ forces healthcare policy experts to reexamine some of the fundamental assumptions that have been driving health care policy for decades,” Grogan told Business Insider. “Using examples of real reforms to a system seemingly designed to waste money, the book explores opportunities for centering health care around the consumer and making it more efficient for them.” 

Buy it here.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

The book is recommended by Dr. Ann Hwang, the director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation at Community Catalyst, and by Lauren Silvis, senior vice president of external affairs at the biotech company Tempus.

“The book brings to life the fraught history between healthcare institutions and their neighboring communities; reminds us that behind every patient, medical record number, or “case” there is a person with his or her own rich history and surfaces issues of exploitation, ownership (of bodies, of cells, and of stories), partnership and empowerment,” Hwang told Business Insider. 

Buy it here. 

“The Social Transformation of American Medicine” by Paul Starr

Recommended by Dean Rosen, a partner at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, where he advises a wide array of healthcare clients. 

“While I don’t agree with all the author’s biases and perspectives, it’s critical that would-be reformers understand the history and how we got here. And this book provides one of the best history lessons,” Rosen told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.

“In Sickness and in Wealth: American Hospitals in the Twentieth Century” by Rosemary Stevens

Recommended by Sayeh Nikpay, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University.

“The book is written by a historian, because there are very few new ideas in health policy,” Nikpay told Business Insider. “Many of my opinions about health policy are formed by studying the past and thinking about how previous reform efforts succeeded or failed.” 

Buy it here.

“My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story” by Abraham Verghese

Recommended by Todd Askew who was recently named the senior vice president of advocacy at the American Medical Association (AMA). 

The book “reminds us that the health care system is really comprised of men and women doing their best to provide compassionate care under sometimes difficult circumstances and often at great personal sacrifice – something that is frequently lost in discussions of health care policy,” Askew told Business Insider. 

Buy it here.