SiCKO and the American health care debate

sicko.jpg Since I watched SiCKO[imdb] the other night, I figured I would loft some thoughts out about it. It’s not easy because I certainly have an appreciation as much as a total annoyance with Michael Moore[wiki]. It’s nothing politically related, just a matter of preference. He’s good at what he does, but there is a certain point where you just want stop watching or listening to the guy for the sake of enjoying the silence.

Overall, a pretty good movie. Even being a documentary, it entertains as well as educates people on the reality of the health care system in the states. Being in Canada, there are people here that are surprised by it. It’s rare, but some folks, even this close to the border, have no frame of reference as to the state of the system in the U.S.

“But you guys are supposed to be one of the richest nations in the world.”

I’m not going to get too deeply into that statement, but the reality of it should give any American a reason to say, “Yeah, you know, you’re right. But why don’t I have any health care coverage unless I have a sweet job with sweet benefits?”

I had a job with the University of Iowa, a state owned and funded institution, for nearly a year before I started to display my lack of satisfaction with the position I had. Being a broadcast engineer, I was working with high voltage equipment on a regular basis. I even crunched my hand under a 200-pound power supply to a FM transmitter, covered by workman’s compensation but no broken bones or bleeding.

It was that instance that freaked me out. You’re told how vital you are to an operation like that, but working in the most hazardous position in the whole place, they never gave me medical coverage at the start. I mentioned that I was going to have to find something else with benefits, meaning leaving the stations. I had medical within a week or so after that, dental came a little while later.


My story pales in comparison to some, but it’s tough for nearly anyone. You can get any job anywhere, but the first question out of anyone’s mouth is, “Benefits?” Sometimes that American dream gets limited by what job you can or can’t do simply by working the job you hate because it has more benefits than the job you want or love. It’s an awful catch.

The one point that I constantly point out to people about this subject is that the main reason we don’t have anything protecting the health of the U.S., such as a universal or socially controlled medical program, is taxes. That American dream is the ability to have whatever you want, as much as you want, and the opportunities are, supposedly, limitless to achieve it.

But don’t you dare make Americans pay taxes. No one wants to pay extra money to the government for anything, even if that means that universal health care coverage would mean anyone working a white collar job to the three part-time jobs, single mom of two kids would have the same amount of medical coverage in the event that either of them contracted a life threatening illness like cancer or TB. The only difference between those two people being socio-economic status, and there is a good chance, rich or lower class, neither would budge on the thought of giving more of their money to the government in exchange for free health care or reduced cost of medication.

That’s when the title of SiCKO starts to make sense to me. It’s a sick circle that the U.S. has gotten itself into. I would love for it to change, but that would really take a revolution of a magnitude that I can’t fathom. That’s not to say that the system here in Canada is the perfect example of what to do, but there isn’t far to look for the positive effects this could have for an entire nation. After all, wouldn’t it be nice if the government cared more to spend money on its own people?


5 Replies to “SiCKO and the American health care debate”

  1. On the point of taxes, Americans resist higher taxes precisely because they don’t have guaranteed health care or education or pension. You scramble at a low-paying job with no benefits-maybe two or three-so you can afford health care for your family and to put your kids into a good school. The idea of paying MORE in taxes on top of that is what scares people. Folks can barely get by now, and, the scare-mongers have told them, they’re going to end up with even less take-home pay when we get universal health care. When the choice is already between rent and meds, that’s a big threat.

    What needs to be clarified is that when the US switches over to a single-payer (or really any universal) system, take-home pay will increase, not decrease. Yes, taxes will rise but that’s in the context of no health insurance premiums, cheap meds and free doctor visits. What are the numbers? The most woefully-inefficient universal health system spends one-tenth of its GDP compared to what the US pays of its GDP? The people who are paying more than anyone else are paying 1/10 of what Americans are for their health care-and we get weaksauce health care! What makes SiCKO good is that it doesn’t waste time with if the US needs universal health care, it focuses on the question of why we don’t have it. And it doesn’t have an answer because there is no answer. It’s absurd.

    The situation in the US is such that the so-called pro-life movement is able to flex its political muscle and get emergency medical procedures outlawed (by the way, that was the Supreme Court decision on abortion a few months ago. It didn’t outlaw late-term abortions performed only when the fetus has become inviable and a threat to the woman’s life, it outlawed the one safe procedure. Now, if the fetus, late in the pregnancy, threatens the life of the woman, she has to undergo a procedure whose risks are sterility and death. But that’s fair, right? After all, she chose to miscarry six months into a pregnancy). So why doesn’t that same so-called pro-life movement get upset about our grotesquely high infant mortality rate? Wouldn’t a big part of saving babies lives involve saving the lives of babies? Why aren’t the Democrats hammering health care as a moral issue-that the Republicans won’t even put up money to keep babies alive?

    Moore is very good, very insistent, about showing what America could do and chastising it for failing. It’s clear that he loves the US. His demand is that the nation rises up to be worthy of the love that so many citizens have for it. If there’s a message throughout his work, it’s “I know you can be better than this.”

  2. Michael Moore is a buffoon…’Documentary’ is a loose term when describing his movies. They are politically slanted propaganda to promote his agenda of a socialist state in the USA.

    The basic fact is, anyone can get healthcare in the USA…hospitals are required by law to treat anyone that walks into their emergency rooms, regardless of ability to pay.

    My friends whose little girl suffered from brain cancer…TWICE…are from the UK and where did they go for help? NYC…not London.

    The only thing wrong with the USA system is the dominance of drug companies through advertising to push their product on consumers without full disclosure of what the medications are from time to time. I am stunned every time I go back to the USA the sheer number of ads for prescription drugs to help you from anything from high blood pressure to getting a woody…that has got to end.

    Other than that, it is the best system in the world…I can go to the doctor and get the treatment I need at anytime…and if I was not insured, I would be able to go to an emergency room and get treatment for anything…its the law.

  3. It’s pretty arrogant to think your system is the best, considering you’ve never seen or been a part of any others. The number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States is due to health costs – do you think those people think it’s the best system in the world?

    I had medical within a week or so after that, dental came a little while later.

    My dad has always told me its sad that companies don’t give employees what they are worth until it’s too late. I’ve heard stories of other electricians who have busted their ass for 10 years for medicre pay, and then finally go to quit because they found a job that pays them what they are worth — immediately the boss will say “well I’ll give you a big raise and a truck too — you’re absolutely valuable to this company, and we can’t afford to lose you” — well, why were you paying next to nothing for ten years then?

  4. Yes, the U.S. has some of, if not the, best medical care in the world. It just doesn’t have the best coverage for you when you need it. (GZ does live and work in China, which I know little about and sounds like it could probably be better than what it is.)

    In the states, it’s true you can go anywhere for treatment and it is the law that emergency rooms must treat you. However, that bill is hefty if you are not covered.

    My dad took a $3000 ambulance ride during his recovery from having a tumor on his kidney. The emergency trip took less than 20 minutes for a 40 mile journey. Luckily he was covered, and it didn’t cost a thing. The paperwork to get that all sorted out took some time for my mom, but being the good accountant that she is, she got it all squared away.

    It’s not a question about the quality of medical care in the U.S. It’s the fact that there is a lot of struggle to get that medical coverage to be accessible to everyone, equally. That way the next John Doe who takes a ride in an ambulance doesn’t have to pay $3000 when he has an accident.

    I could care less about political agendas or the mindset of Michael Moore’s actions. It’s a system that needs serious overhaul, and the drug companies are apart of that, too.

  5. Both of you make perfect sense. It’s the whole Michael Moore thing that makes my skin crawl.

    Its also the thought of the government going in and trying to ‘fix’ things. When was the last time the government ever made anything in the private sector ‘better’ by getting involved??? (Hello, I’m from the government and I am here to help. AAARRRGHGHGGHGGHGH!!!)

    One thing is for certain…its a hot-button topic that everyone has a strong opinion about. The problem is so deep, that there is no magic wand to make it better…from insurance companies (which, John, I think you elude to more than the actual care when you say ‘coverage’)to tort reform to drug companies…you name it. Its all a mess…and there is no easy solution.

    Perhaps my libertarian attitudes are a bit out of the realm here…but, its always good to have all sides (and you have educated me as well!).

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