It Left Me Feeling… SICKO

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I guess I’m slow. I’ve heard that before. But I finally got to see Michael Moore’s documentary on the American Healthcare System. This was my very first Michael Moore documentary. I didn’t watch bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11.

Prior to watching this film I thought that Michael Moore was pretty obnoxious. Not that I’ve ever met the guy. He just came across that way to me. He seemed confrontational. But maybe you need to be that way to produce an effective documentary.

Throughout the film, Michael Moore introduces the audience to various Americans. We get to meet them and find out about their difficulties in the system of medicine that Americans seem to have accepted.

As a documentary about the atrocities of the American healthcare system, one would expect to see the negatives. And Mr. Moore does not fail to deliver. He presents one tear-jerking story after another and with his sarcasm points out how broken our system really is.

At one point he brings a group of Americans who have health problems resulting from their work at Ground Zero of on 9/11. These rescue workers had many problems that they just could not afford to deal with back home. Moore took them to Cuba where they were treated free of charge.

I consider this film to be an argument for Universal Healthcare. As an argument, I didn’t expect an unbiased view. Even so, Michael Moore did point out some of his critics. And one can easily find the opposing viewpoints with a quick Google search.

Without getting into a debate about the merits or pitfalls of universal medicine, I previously wrote that there are two entities that keep America from going the route of universal healthcare. Those two are (1) doctors and (2) Big Pharma. (see my post: Reforming the U.S. Healthcare System for more).

Overall, I think it was an excellent film for anyone interested in healthcare in America. Is it a good generalization of the state of things in this country? I don’t know. My mother had cancer a couple years ago and was very well taken care of by her insurance (not going to name them, but the founder is briefly mentioned in the film). Maybe my mom was the exception and not the norm? I just haven’t been in and around the hospital system to know. Nevertheless, the film does offer one viewpoint and its probably that we should take a look at.


Reforming the U.S. Healthcare System

Related Posts: Physician Salaries on the Decline

This quarter I’m taking a course called “Medicine and Ethics.” The class is taught by Dr. X. (name withheld). There are a number of topics that was scheduled to be discussed and each topic was presented by a group of 3 or 4 students. I ended up in a group of four. Our topic, as you can probably guess by the title of this post was “Reforming the American Medical System.”

I wanted no part of this topic. I felt that the American Healthcare System is a mess but there’s not much we can do about it. I really wanted to be in the group that would present on physicians and war. But as Dr. X went down the list and waited for volunteers for each topic, it became clear that Reforming the U.S. Healthcare was not the popular one. No hands jumped up at the opportunity to tackle this problem… So I reluctantly raised my hand and said I’d join the group.

I had already heard that the United States spends more money than any other industrialized nation on healthcare. I had heard people complain that the Healthcare system in America is broken. But these were only things I heard. I, personally, had never had any problems accessing healthcare. And so when I actually looked at the stats, well, it was a bit surprising.

Some of the things I discovered in my casual research:

  • The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have a form of Universal Healthcare.
  • The United States spends at least 40% more per capita than any other industrialized nation on healthcare.
  • The United States spends more than 3 times more per capita than Canada on Health Administration costs alone.
  • Almost 47 million Americans (approx. 16%) are without healthcare insurance or are not eligible for buying affordable life insurance.
  • Eight out of 10 uninsured Americans come from working families.

Those are some incredible numbers. And while only about 16% of Americans are uninsured, the majority of Americans with insurance are only one major medical emergency away from bankruptcy. Many are well-aware of how much is available to them under their health insurance policy. And, while it may be enough for your routine physical check-up or the occasional prescription medication, it is nowhere near enough to cover $40,000 that might be billed for cancer treatment.

Why is it that every other industrialized nation can provide healthcare to their citizens at a far lower cost than what Americans spend? Its a shame that the country that won the race to the moon cannot figure out how to ensure that every citizen has access to basic healthcare.

In my mind, there are two major roadblocks preventing the United States from transitioning to a Universal Healthcare system.

  1. Doctors
  2. Big Business

Physicians are afraid of the idea of Universal Healthcare and a single payer system. Why? Because they fear losing control. I believe that many physicians are afraid that a single payer system would negatively affect physician salaries. While it may be possible for the government to force down physician salaries in a single payer system, it is not in the best interest of the government or the nation to do so. If there was not financial benefit to being a physician, most countries would have a huge shortage of physicians. But, under the universal systems in other industrialized nations, physicians do make a decent, comfortable living.

The bloated health care system of the United States benefits big business more than any other party involved. It benefits big business more than physicians. But most concerning, it benefits big business more than the patient. As health insurance premiums continue to rise, insurance companies continue to pull in a profit while more and more Americans find out that can no longer afford coverage.

Greed drives the industry. The sole purpose of a corporation is not to look out for the interests of its customers and ensure customer satisfaction. The goal of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders.

And that is the problem with privatized healthcare. If a corporation begins to lose money, its shareholders get antsy. But when healthcare is federally funded, the government can take a loss for the good of its citizens.

Reforming the healthcare system will probably mean that the big corporations in the healthcare system won’t be making as much money. But America needs to decide, as a whole and through our leaders in congress, that the health of a nation is more important than the pocketbooks of corporations. Hopefully, we decide soon.