The State of US Medical Care -- Again
The Sad Truth About American Medicine
If anyone still thinks that Michael Moore's "Sicko" was an inaccurate portrait of the state of health care in the United States, they better read this incredibly sad story and think long and hard about its meaning.
Here is a man who cares deeply about his wife and cannot bear to see her suffer. He could no longer afford the $800 per week her medications were costing. All the system could offer was a long drop off the balcony for her, and a lifetime in jail for him. Truly sickening.
Sicko Is Superb, Should Bring Revolution
I suspect that, with a single major exception that I'll discuss below, most of us -- and most Americans -- already know about the failures of the US healthcare system. What Sicko does is to contrast and compare it, in depth, with the successful systems in Canada, the UK, France and Cuba. The differences will probably come as a true shock to most Americans (because they have been lied to by both politicians and insurance carriers): every other Western country has universal and free medical coverage, with complete choice of doctors and procedures, paid for with a tax system that is no more onerous (perhaps less) than what Americans pay for taxes plus incomplete insurance today. And every other Western country has smaller percentages of their populations afflicted with the major diseases than does the US, and their populations live on average several years longer.
Michael Moore's interview with that old British Labour warhorse Anthony Wedgewood-Benn was perhaps the most important segment in terms of explaining the differences. Benn recounted how, in 1948, the British National Health System was established. Remembering the billions upon billions of dollars the Brits had managed to raise to defeat the Germans in the War, he recalled that the post-war leadership realised that if one could spend that kind of money to kill people, then you could equally well spend that kind of money to make people better. And thus was born the concept of free health coverage for everyone, rich or poor.
It was also Tony Benn, I believe, who pointed out that the significant political difference between Europe and America is that in Europe the politicians are afraid of the people, while in the States most people are afraid of the government. As he said, even that generally-insensitive doyen of the British right wing, Maggie Thatcher, would never have dared to try to eliminate the National Health Service.
My only complaint about the movie is in the marketing. The ads have one viewer saying it is "hilarious", and another saying that he couldn't stop laughing. Well, I have no idea what movie they saw. Moore is often sarcastic and certainly likes to point up the ludicrousness of the American situation but, in a crowded theatre yesterday, I heard nothing even approaching a chuckle. The situation is simply too dire for that. Moreover, the section of the movie where Moore takes American 9/11 first responders who cannot get treatment in the States to a Cuban hospital actually brought me to tears. The compassion shown by the superb Cuban medical team is in such stark contrast to the terrible treatment these people suffered in the States that I was overwhelmed.
I mentioned above that generally the bad state of American healthcare is well known. Most of us can recall reading stories about US insurers refusing treatment. However, I suspect that most of us will be shocked to the core, as was I, to see elderly and desperately sick patients being dumped out of cars in the Los Angeles' skid-row neighbourhood by a hospital who had evicted them for inability to pay. The picture of an elderly woman, very sick and completely disoriented, shuffling along the street wearing nothing but a thin hospital gown should be branded on the foreheads of every HMO CEO.
If the American people don't see this film and use it as the kickoff to a mighty revolution in US healthcare then, frankly, they don't deserve anything better than the crappy system they have today.