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What if we had a decent, publicly-funded health system , available to everybody, with or without insurance? We’ve got one, says Dr. Ricardo Nuila. It’s where he works.  

And it could be a model for the whole country. Yes, really. 

That’s the pitch he makes in his new book, The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine. It’s a love letter to Houston’s Ben Taub hospital, and an argument for bringing Ben Taub’s model , efficient, innovative, and cheap , to the rest of the country.

And if that seems unlikely in today’s political climate, well: Ben Taub’s wild origin story was plenty unlikely too. 

That story takes us to the 1960’s, when Dutch novelist and playwright Jan de Hartog moved to Houston. He fell in love with the bustling, futuristic home of NASA and the Astrodome. 

But he also discovered the city’s dreadful underside: a neglected charity hospital where largely African-American patients are left to seek health care in unsanitary and unsafe , hellish , conditions. 

De Hartog and a group of Quaker volunteers waged a campaign to change that, and eventually found an unlikely ally who brought it over the finish line. 

The People’s Hospital is a heck of a book. We might want to start a book group someday, just to talk about it. If you want to grab a copy, here’s a link. (Or: Audiobook, or ebook.)

Here’s a transcript of the episode

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