Crystal and I went and saw Michael Moore’s new movie this weekend, entitled “Sicko.”
I knew as soon as we walked in the theater that it was going to be a unique experience. The majority of the theater was already filled up, mostly with people 60 or older. There were a few people in our age group but not many. As I sat there waiting for the movie to start I overheard a few of the conversations around me and could tell that word had spread fast throughout the AARP community about this movie and anticipation had been building. If anyone is wondering why this is noteworthy just think in terms of political implications. As a poly science major the first thing you learn is that senior citizens vote at an extremely higher rate than any other demographic. So the fact that there was such a high concentration of senior citizens in the theater and no buffet in sight I knew the topic of this documentary is a growing concern for many in our nation.
For those who do not know the movie is about the health care situation/crisis in the United States.
1. 50 million Americans have no health insurance
2. 250 million Americans who do have health insurance often fight a tidal wave of red tape and denials when in need of medical care.
3. Perscription drugs have become so outrageously expensive that millions of elderly people who should be retired are working part time just to be able to pay for their prescriptions. There is one guy in the movie who is 79 and works in the warehouse at a grocery store just so his wife can get her medicine. Another lady in the movie who is a who worked at ground zero on 9/11 must ante up 120 a month for an inhaler she needs from respiratory problems she developed. These same inhalers cost as little as 5 cents in other parts of the world.
4. Premiums have become so expensive that health insurance is quickly becoming unaffordable for the average american family. A typical family of a husband, wife and two children could expect to pay as much as $600 a month.
Now before I go any further I want to say that I am not a Micheal Moore fan. I got through about half of “Fahrenheit 911″ and I had to turn it off. It was misleading, manipulative, and unnecessarily polemic. But seeing as health care has been and issue that I have personally been concerned about for a few years now, and noting that Fox News gave a favorable review of “Sicko” I thought I should go see it. I was not disappointed.
Outside of a few pot shots at President Bush I found the movie to be incredibly on point and well done. Micheal Moore’s basic premise is that in the United State health care system there are two foundational fundamental agendas; profit, and the health of people. And when these two agendas collide profit wins out and the health of people takes a back seat. Now I know I am simplifying here but Moore is trying to get at the fact that health insurance companies and prescription drug companies are first and foremost responsible to their shareholders and turning a profit. This goal of making money often comes at the expense of providing medical treatment for those in need. In the movie you hear testimony form people who have worked for the big insurance companies such as, Humana, Blue Cross, KP, talk about how they were rewarded or received bonuses based on their denial rate. In other words the employees got more money for denying treatment. To personalize this Moore shows us a number of families and individuals who have been on the denial end from the insurance companies and how these denials resulted in death for some of them. One lady who had a brain tumor was even told no she did not, and that surgery to remove it was considered “experimental” so it would not be covered. She died.
Moore then goes on to highlight some of the health care systems from countries such as Canada, U.K. and France. All of which have socialized medicine. Now this is the part where many of us Americans just freak out. We hear the word socialized and we get this haunting memory of the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. and Stalin. We think anything socialized is anti-democratic and most be opposed. But before we freak out it is important to remember that Canada, and the U.K. have both had socialized medicine for decades now and still remain democracies. Moore anticipates the objections that come with the idea of socialized medicine and takes them on quite well.
1. You will have to wait days to see a doctor and the treatment will be second rate. False, at the wait time in hospitals in both Canada, and the U.K. is less then America. Plus the treatment is far superior, as doctors there actually bonus off their patients improved health (such as lowering their cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, weight loss).
2. No one will want to be a doctor because they won’t get paid well. This is an argument that is typically set forth by the American Medical Association but just does not hold much weight. The doctor in Britain that Moore interviews says he makes 200k a year, plus a pension and leads a very comfortable lifestyle. He drive an Audi, has a million dollar home and says he is very happy. The doctor says that he makes plenty of money to afford all of the nice things he could want. While 200k may not be enough to have ten Audi’s and five million dollar homes, it is still a really good wage. So really the question becomes how much is enough? I am not against doctors being paid well, they deserve it, but do I do think there is a line, between being well compensated insane salaries that just drive up the price of health care.
3. Socializing health care is un-democratic. This is just a silly claim. We already have a number of socialized services in our country. The public education system is one, every child is educated, and we all chip in for the costs. The police and fire departments are both socialized institutions, and I am glad for that. If my house catches on fire, I want someone to come and put it out. I do not want to have to call a private fire company and haggle over price as my house burns down I just want someone to come and help me. Are you noticing a pattern here? The things that are of great importance, and nessisity to all of us and the welfare of society are socialized. This is not anti-democratic, we chose to socialize them, so that we all have peace and freedom of mind when it comes to knowing our society will be educated, and protected. I think health and well being of people belongs in this same category, or at least close to it.
My proposal- If I go to the Mall tomorrow and Nike is charging 20,000 for a new pair of running shoes, or Apple is charging 500,000 for an iPhone I make think that is ridiculous and insane but I am not greatly affected. I can go on with my life and survive without Nike’s or an iPhone. In capitalism people can charge whatever they want as long as someone will buy it, this is simple supply and demand. But when it comes to things that are imperative and essential for life such as water, electricity, gas, or other utilites prices are regulated. If Matt and the Southern Nevada Water Authority want to raise rates they have to go before the regulatory board and ask permission. This is to make sure that these essential utilities are affordable to the population. Health care, just like running water is not a luxory like an iPhone, but a requirment for life. People need it to live and survive. Health treatment, prescription drugs should never be so costly that only the rich can afford them, but rather should be regulated so that everyone can afford them. This is why I am not quite in favor of socialized medicine (maybe one day I will get there) but I do believe we need to regulate the costs. Personally, I believed a tiered payment structure based off of income would be best. The point would simply be that people paid what is affordable to them. So that when a man cuts off his finger he does not have to chose which one to re-attach (this actually happens to a guy in the movie with no health insurance). Truth is as Christians, we are called to care for our neighbors, and love the least of these. I think that starts with being concerned that in the most wealthy, tech savy, resourced nation in the history of the world, that all recieve medical treatment when they need it.
I believe this will be one of the biggest if not biggest issues driving the upcoming presidential election. Regardless how you feel about Micheal Moore this movie is worth your time and money. I promise that when you leave the theater, you will leave with a sense of unrest and conviction that the way it is right now is not the way it should be or has to be.
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