18 February 2008

"Sicko" and Health Care

I watched the movie “Sicko” this weekend, and I have mixed feelings about it. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s a Michael Moore film about health care. His basic premise (which I agree with) is that people in other countries with socialized medicine systems seem to have better access to that care than those of us who are managed by profit-driven HMOs. My view on Moore is decidedly mixed; personally, I think he is a self-serving pontificating ass who sometimes does “Moore” harm than good in terms of advancing a liberal viewpoint. On the other hand, the man is capable of raising good points, and at least tries to address what he sees as wrong in the world.
In “Sicko,” Moore uses many interviews to talk with people who, for one reason or another, have been denied care from their HMOs. Moore juxtaposes these cases with scenes shot in England, France and Cuba showing how the health care systems there don’t seem to deny anyone. While I agree with the premise that health care access in this country needs to be improved, I disagree with the use of Cuba as an example for much of anything. Besides their health care and their literacy rate, what do they have? They have 454 years of oppression from a Communist government. I’m sure the 9/11 aid workers he was able to secure help for in Cuban hospitals were allowed to proceed in doing so because the various control mechanisms in the country realized it would be good propaganda to do so. The fact that these same 9/11 workers haven’t been cared for in the States is nothing less than a travesty – but to take them to a sworn enemy for help smacks of ideological ignorance.
Moore paints with broad brushstrokes; he takes aspects of a problem or situation and ignores the larger picture. For example, he used footage from Iraq before the invasion of kids swinging on swings and made the entire place look really peaceful and nice. The larger picture was that Saddam Hussein and his enforcers were still in power. There may have been peace in terms of no actual war going on, but try convincing someone who’d had relatives vanish in Hussein’s prisons that the land was idyllic and peaceful.
The biggest problem I have with Michael Moore is that his movies are designed to preach to the already converted. The polemic and inherently biased tone of his films is not designed to reach out to those on the other side of the fence; if anything, it’s a form of liberal porn, designed to get us off on our own righteousness. The man raises some good questions about a lot of things, but after the success of “Roger and Me,” I think his self-image as a sloppy avenger went to his head. Sometimes, the scenes in his movies aren’t about the situation as they are about Michael Moore, Social Avenger of Evils. Examples of this include “Bowling for Columbine,” when he leaves a picture of a little girl, killed by gun violence, on the doorstep of Charlton Heston, then-chairman of the NRA. Another example that comes to mind is paying the $12,000 health bill of a man who ran the biggest anti-Michael Moore website on the Internet. It’s not that he decided to do this – it’s that he did it and then filmed it for inclusion in “Sicko.”
Health care in his country isn’t the problem; the quality is unsurpassed. No, the problem is ACCESS to that quality care. I know many who get angry at the idea of any sort of socialized medicine program. Common arguments I hear include a lack of choice of doctors, waiting six months for preventative treatment, lack of quality, etc. However, I don’t see how the mightiest country in the world can keep going when 18,000 people die every year because (for one reason or another) they don’t have health insurance. Moore makes a good point about “socialized” medicine. He says in the film we already have socialized police and fire departments, socialized libraries and a socialized postal service. Plus, health care in the military is already socialized. And the same model can’t work in the rest of the country? I find that hard to believe.
I write this editorial as a man who has seen his health premiums skyrocket over the few years he’s worked. Name one other field that can get away with such a rate change as the health insurance companies. How can a 30 percent annual increase possibly be justified? This year, my deductible jumped from $1,000 to $2,700. What will it be next year?
I’m all for exploring the idea of a socialized medicine program. If other countries with less can do it, why can’t we? For example, the United State’s GDP in 2005 was nearly 12 times that of France. If a country with less can do so much more for its citizens, what is our excuse? In the end, I think it boils down to corporate health care having a monetarily cozy relationship with the people who represent us at all levers of government. No telling how much those companies forked out back in the early 90s to make sure Hillary's health plan was DOA.
As far as the arguments of choice are concerned, I think the greater concern in my mind is the relative lack of economic choice any of us have got in trying to control an industry that’s spun wildly out of control. As a taxpayer, I want to know that I will be taken care of, as I would be in ANY OTHER FIRST-WORLD COUNTRY ON THE PLANET. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, especially for a country that can afford to dump nearly $2 trillion into a desert country halfway across the world for decidedly mixed results.

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