Money-Driven Medicine: summary

Money-Driven Medicine provides the essential introduction Americans need if we are to address the unmet healthcare policy challenges of the next decade. Produced by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side; Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) and inspired by Maggie Mahar's acclaimed book, Money Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much, it offers the only systemic look on film at the economics underlying – and often undermining -- our $2.6 trillion healthcare system.


The film interweaves the stories of patients and doctors ensnared in the system with insights by thought-leaders such as Dr. Donald Berwick, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),  Dr. James Weinstein of Dartmouth and bio-ethicist Dr. Larry Churchill of Vanderbilt. Money-Driven Medicine goes beyond health insurance reform as it lays out the looming policy challenges for the next decade if we are to provide all Americans effective, high quality, patient-centered care while containing costs and reducing wasteful, even risky procedures.



The Educator's/ Professional's Edition

The Educator's/ Professional's Edition of Money-Driven Medicine is now available in four versions of different lengths – all on one DVD – which makes it easy to use in many different contexts:

  • Money-Driven Medicine: The Complete Film (86 minutes)- Traces the influence of financial pressures through every aspect of America's healthcare system and how it shapes the cost and quality of care.

  • Inside the Medical-Industrial Complex: Profits and Patients (50 minutes)- An overview of American healthcare economics including the growth and influence of the healthcare industry, "assembly line" medicine, fee-for-service vs. accountable care, over-treatment and suppy-driven demand and the rise of specialists at the expense of primary care.
  • The Doctor-Patient Partnership: Changing the Culture of American Healthcare (38 minutes)- Doctors reflect on their relationship with patients and the economic pressures they feel. They discuss emergency and rescue care vs. consistent, preventive health management, and how to make primary, patient-centered care based on informed shared decision-making a priority.
  • An Introduction to Money-Driven Medicine (18 minutes)- A discussion starter highlighting the symptoms, diagnosis and possible cures of America's high cost, low performance health delivery system



The U.S. spends twice as much per person on healthcare as the average developed nation, 17.5% of our GDP - yet our outcomes, especially for chronic diseases, are very often worse. What makes us the exception? The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that has chosen to turn medicine into a largely unregulated, for-profit business.

Effective Care or More Expensive Care?

In Money-Driven Medicine, Dr. Donald Berwick, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, explains: “We get more care, but not better care.” Our fee-for-service system channels resources into the high-tech, high-cost “rescue care” patients need after they become critically ill, while it skimps on the preventive primary care which could keep them out of the hospital in the first place. As a consequence, emergency rooms overflow while family practitioners are becoming an endangered species. Medical students explain how these perverse pay incentives drive them away from primary care into higher-paying specialties.


Medical ethicist Larry Churchill doesn’t mince words: “The current medical care system is not designed to meet the health needs of the population. It is designed to protect the interests of insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, and to a certain extent organized medicine. It is designed to turn a profit. It is designed to meet the needs of the people in power.”


These businesses comprise the “medical-industrial complex” which has wrested power from physicians, turning healthcare into a commodity and patients into profit centers. As the eye-opening ads in Money-Driven Medicine reveal, the more new drugs, surgical procedures, diagnostic devices and hospital beds the health industry can produce, the more they can sell - whether we need them or not. It’s called “supply-driven demand” and it’s possible because a sick consumer can’t say no.


Although many uninsured and under-insured Americans receive too little care, the well-insured often get unnecessary, even risky care. More than two decades of studies by researchers at Dartmouth reveal that up to one-third of our healthcare dollars are squandered on useless tests and ineffective or unproven procedures no better than the less-costly ones they replace. The studies argue that evidence-based, accountable care would be both more effective and less expensive.

Taking Back Healthcare

In Money-Driven Medicine, frustrated doctors and outraged patients testify to the tragedies which can happen when profit trumps patients’ needs. Veteran physicians stress that reform must begin with a new doctor-patient partnership based on consistent, informed, shared decision-making. “Before patients can reclaim their rightful place at the center of our healthcare system,” Maggie Mahar notes, “we must empower doctors and nurses to practice patient-centered care based, not on corporate imperatives, but on the best scientific research available.”

Money-Driven Medicine will encourage health professionals and patients to work together to take control of American medicine back from outside corporate interests. The film alerts viewers that the work of reforming our healthcare system will be long and arduous, opposed by vested interest at every step. It must stretch from doctors' offices to professional associations to Congress itself.


Screening Money-Driven Medicine will help convince viewers that a sound, sustainable medical infrastructure is crucial not just to their personal health but to that of the economy and society as a whole - why curing America’s healthcare crisis could be a matter of national life and death.



Maggie Mahar’s blog:

DVD purchase:

Money-Driven Medicine

Jigsaw Productions and Gabriel Film Group.  Producers: Alex Gibney with Peter Bull and Chris Matonti.

Co-Executive Producer: Rob Johnson. Executive Producer: Walt McConnell, MD

Director: Andy Fredericks.  Associate Producer: Deidre Sheehan

Four versions – all on one DVD:  86 min; 50 min; 38 min; 18 min (2009)

(Released by California Newsreel ( in association with B-Side Entertainment)