Patients Talk about Money with Their Doctor

By Michael Stein

200 pp., 5 x 7

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6114-8
    Published: December 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6113-1
    Published: December 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6115-5
    Published: September 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6065-1
    Published: September 2020

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In this age of shortened office visits, doctors take care of their patients’ immediate needs and often elide their own personal histories. But as reflected in Broke, Michael Stein takes the time to listen to the experiences of his patients whose financial challenges complicate every decision in life they make. Stein asks his patients to tell him about their financial conditions not only to find out how to better treat them but also to bear witness to their very survival and the power of human resilience. Stein’s intimate vignettes capture these encounters, allowing his patients to offer profound, moving, and unguarded reflections about their struggles, sometimes in a single sentence.

Broke is a quietly passionate critique of a country that has grown callous to the plight of the poor, the tens of millions of people in the United States who live below the poverty line and who have no obvious path to security. Full of heartbreaking and surprising details and framed by a wry, knowing, and empathic humor, there is no other book that illuminates the experience of people facing economic hardship in this way.

About the Author

Michael Stein, M.D., is professor of health law, policy, and management at Boston University.
For more information about Michael Stein, visit the Author Page.


"On the surface, Broke is exactly what it sounds like it would be—a book full of anecdotes, narrated by Stein but told mostly without commentary, about how his patients deal with money. But the format is just a narrative device, really, meant to illustrate Stein’s larger point, which is that when people are poor, their lives are hard in ways that are always unique and frequently unmanageable—to the point where day-to-day survival must take precedent over their long-term goals."—GQ Magazine

Broke is a powerful read, one full of surprising details, that provides a fascinating portrayal of medical patients and their relationship with poverty. Stein lifts up his patients’ voices so we can understand just what they have experienced, and his own voice is gentle, reflective, and empathetic. This is a book every doctor and patient should read.”—Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting and The Gulf

“Michael Stein presents the heartbreaking words of his patients who face the reality of having to choose between getting medical treatments or paying their bills. The room he creates for these patients to say important, moving, relevant things to him will capture the imagination of every physician who reads this. I have never read a book that moved me more, as a physician, regarding the plight, courage, and creativity of patients.”—Raymond Barfield, MD, Duke University