Current mood: enragedI saw the movie "Sicko" by Michael Moore last night, possibly the first time ever I saw one on its opening night. Quick take: Jaw-dropping.
Moore's style is at times funny, at times shocking, frequently tongue-in-cheek, but he never lets you miss the point. The point here is that we are arguably the richest country of the world, but even third-world countries have better health care than we do. About 1/6 of the U.S. population has no insurance at all for their health care needs, and 5/6 cannot rely on it truly working for them when they most need it.
Just about anywhere else in the developed world (Canada, U.K., and France are explored in depth), you can walk into any hospital or medical center, get seen by a doctor right away, get your concern taken care of, be treated properly, and not pay a cent for the service. If medicines are involved, they too are provided, either for free or only a small cost.
We do not do that here, and one need not travel far to see its effects.
* I myself was paying $320/month for a set of medicines up to a year ago. I decided to stop taking them, not because of the money, but because at best they were not worth the cost, and at worst were doing more harm than good.
* Three times in the past year, my family has been saddled with one-time costs well into the hundreds of dollars, for procedures that could not be avoided, and costs which could not be negotiated. And that was for family members who did have insurance!
* Just in the last month, a neighbor's first great-grandchild did not live three weeks. This is not a rare case. Our nation's infant mortality rate trails all developed countries, and many undeveloped countries.
Some jaw-dropping scenes:
* The 22-year-old woman from Michigan who, upon a diagnosis of cervical cancer, was denied treatment because her carrier decided that 22-year-old women are not supposed to get cervical cancer. Moore shows all relevant documentation for each of these cases. She drove across the bridge to Windsor (Ontario, Canada), passing herself off as the common-law wife of a Canadian citizen, so she could get treatment to avoid dying.
* The mother who worked for a big HMO in California, who called 9-1-1 when her 18-month daughter ran a 104+ fever. Taken right away to a hospital, but refused treatment because it was an out-of-network hospital. By the time a second ambulance could take her across town to the in-network hospital, the girl died.
* A British drug store. Ceiling to floor, front to back, are pharmaceuticals. Not a candy bar or greeting card in sight, not even toothpaste, and everything is the same price (about $10), even for different quantities of the same drug.
* U.S. expatriates in France, describing their individual experiences with French health care. One guy who was born in France, but schooled and went to college in the U.S., got a brain tumor as a young adult. Denied treatment here, he went back to France, where he not only received the treatment he needed, but got a three-month fully-paid recuperation period, before returning to work. A young housewife related her experience with a government-paid nanny who comes to the house twice a week to help with the kids and household chores, even laundry and cooking.
* The hospital security camera shots of a taxicab dumping a woman at curbside, barefoot and in a hospital gown. The previous hospital did not want to incur the continued cost of treating her. This is a constant occurrence in that area.
* The sick individuals Moore interviewed earlier in the movie, piling onto boats to go to Cuba, where they received first-rate health care -- for free -- and since some of them were firefighters and aid workers at Ground Zero following the World Trade Center bombing, were given a heroes' welcome.
What does this mean? It means our health care system does not work. In Canada, France and the U.K., the health care is simply there, and you do not pay a cent. What you need, you get, and that's that.
Moore takes aim at the relationship between politicians, insurance providers, and pharmaceutical companies. They haven't been in bed with one another so much as been in a 30-year orgy, replete with plastic sheets and vegetable oil. What has resulted is worse than a mess, it's a shambles and a disgrace, and everyone is culpable.
What to do next? The tendency is to say "can the whole lot". Replacing politicians would be a good start, but if history is any guide, ex-politicians become either lobbyists or executives in the business. No, we need something deeper.
The goal must be single-payer universal health care. It cannot cost anything more than what it's costing us now, in lives lost, in good years lost to illness, in undiagnosed catastrophes, in stupid red tape, and in putting people in poverty for want of even rudimentary care. Even Cuba gives its people better health care than we do.
This movie must be seen. Not seen to be believed, but seen to understand the seriousness of the reality we all face.