Jay and I watched a very interesting movie over the weekend. Sicko – anybody heard of it? I’m sure no other health wonk blogs have ever reviewed it, so I guess the Colorado Health Insurance Insider will start things off…
Critics of the movie have attacked the editing style that Moore uses, saying that he takes bits and pieces of emails and conversations from here and there and puts them together to show the point that he wants to make. I have no doubt that this is true, just as reality tv editors pick and choose what clips they will play and in what order. Creative editing is done to make movies and tv shows more interesting. They need to keep the audience entertained in order to keep them watching. Obviously Sicko is not a 60 minutes-style documentary. It has Michael Moore’s own bias added throughout the film, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his other movies. He absolutely has an agenda, and uses his creative film-making process to further the causes he believes in.
In the case of Sicko, Moore set out to highlight the flaws in the US health care system and health insurance industry. To argue that our systems do not have major flaws would be difficult at this point. There are lots of different ideas floating around about how to fix the myriad of problems, but the vast majority of the ones that get public attention are those proposed by high-paid insiders in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the AMA, and lawmakers who receive huge financial contributions from those industries. I have little time or patience for “reform ideas” that are proposed by people who stand to reap huge gains should their suggested “reforms” be put in place.
So let’s look at Michael Moore. He’s not a part of the health care industry. He’s not a lawmaker. He’s not in the health insurance business. His business is film-making. True, he’s a film-maker with a very left-leaning bias, but he can make movies about pretty much anything. Whether the US continues with its current self-destructive, for-profit health care system or adopts a non-profit universal health care system, Moore’s livelihood will not be affected. He will most likely have found another subject to research and film by then. So while he does have an obvious agenda in the movie, it’s hard to find a financial motivation for his beliefs. He gets paid when people watch the movie (except people like Jay and me who waited on hold for six months to get it from the library for free). Whether the system actually changes will have no effect on his bottom line. CEOs of hospitals, health insurance carriers and pharmaceutical companies can’t really say the same thing. So Moore’s opinion is worth considering, if for the sole reason that it would actually seem to be less personally biased than the opinions of most of the big players in the current health care system.
There are some undisputable facts presented in the movie. The US is the only industrialized western nation that does not provide universal health care to all its citizens. Our life expectancy and infant mortality rates are far from the best in the world, and yet we spend more money per capita on health care than any other country in the world. We have a health insurance system that puts nearly every citizen in a position where money is inextricably linked with health care. At our lowest times – when we are sick or injured – we have to deal not only with getting well, but also with the beaurocracies of health insurance and medical billing, and in most cases come up with payment for deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. People in other western nations do not have to do the same. They live longer than we do, more of their babies survive infancy, fewer of them die from preventable illnesses, and yet they spend less money on health care than we do.
In his portrayals of the health care systems in Canada, England, France, and Cuba, Moore may have shown a positive bias in order to make his point. But whatever way you look at it, those countries do manage to provide health care to every citizen, regardless of employment status, medical history, or financial means. What amazes me most about the health care debate is how vigorously the opponents of single-payer universal health care argue that such a system wouldn’t work. And yet we’re in the only country where it isn’t being used in one form or another.
I have to wonder about the personal motivations of the people on either side of the health care debate in the US. If we discounted the opinions of everyone who profits handsomely from the current health care system, what would we have left? How many average citizens who struggle to pay rising health insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays are really opposed to the idea of universal health care? Health care has become one of the main issues in the current political arena – it’s come a long way since the early 90s when “Hillary-Care” was widely beaten down and swept under the rug. If Moore’s movie has caused people who didn’t understand how health care works in other countries to question our own system, then I consider it a success. We can’t fight for something that we don’t understand. So I applaud Sicko for turning the spotlight on our ailing health care system and getting people to talk about it. Let’s hope that the talk turns into eventual action, and that our children will know that health care is a right, not a privilege.