Friday, September 14, 2007

"Open wide": A line of health practitioners or rapists?

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. After some consideration, I’m finally deciding to post it.

Not too long ago, I saw Michael Moore’s latest documentary Sicko (courtesy of my dear friend the Hippie Conservative; who also wrote an incredible piece on it himself a few months ago). Just in case you haven’t been keeping score, Sicko provides an assessment (albeit a biased assessment) on the state of the American health care system; while seemingly being a proponent of a more universal system. Initially, the movie invoked some pretty stirred feelings for me; as to be expected from me when I see something for the first time. But after watching it again, I feel like I’m in a better position to provide more accurate commentary on how I really feel about it.

Let me just go on the record by saying that I’m not a huge Michael Moore fan, to be sure. Though I’ve admittedly seen and actually enjoyed his other documentaries (included in that group are Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11), I tend to think that Moore often takes facts only to then twist, edit, and manipulate them to satisfy his points. Don’t get me wrong: he’s no Sean Hannity, but when it comes to contriving material, they don’t get as prolific as Mr. Moore.

I should also note…or perhaps remind you…that when I was in high school, I wanted to register as a Republican. Like so many of my good, God-fearing, conservative, hardcore Christian peers, I was groomed to deprecate anything that was too liberal, tolerant or universally accepting; especially stuff that bore any resemblance to those evil Socialists that our brave and intrepid President Ronald Reagan valiantly defeated. So when then First Lady Hillary Clinton started talking about some kooky nationalized health care plan, I immediately thought “Why should we have to pay for other people? Why can’t they pick themselves up by the bootstraps?!” *Interesting how I kept putting myself in the “we” category; as if my young, dumb, non-taxing paying ass had anything meaningful to contribute to society. I kinda reminded myself of today’s silly Chickenhawk College Republicans who tout the war but won’t join themselves. You know; these cats:



But I digress. Seriously, I do...

Getting back to my main point: Sicko. Truth be told, it wasn’t my intention to like this movie. I intended on getting a little informed but ultimately weeding through the facts to find the hidden agenda. I did that; to an extent. But I ultimately left the film on Mike’s side. True, he was up to his usual parlor tricks in the film. Every time he mentioned something about a free prescription in France somewhere, I found myself half looking for a disclaimer in fine print at the bottom of the screen somewhere.

I have to admit that Mike categorically aroused the conspiracy theorist part of me when he illustrated how corporate and state sponsored greed drives the HUGE business of health care. It’s becoming increasing clear that the Governmental and Corporate tag teams are bent on propagating our hatred toward the French (anybody remember “Freedom Fries”?), vilifying Canada’s health care system, convincing us that every little thing wrong with us can only be cured with the drugs they push on us, motivating our dependency on insurance companies, and then providing absolutely no oversight as these companies rape people who dutifully and faithfully keep up on their premium payments. You’ve all heard the stories.

If Moore’s intentions were to arouse fear over what could happen to me in the future, he failed. But if his intention was to shock, anger, and unnerve me he accomplished that feat. As I watched this movie, I constantly reminded myself of the truth that this ‘freedom’ of which our nation is ostensibly committed is often translated into a certain type of burden; nothing more oppressive than the health care system. We’re stuck paying insurance companies insane amounts of money simply because we’re forced to. All the while, they’re allowed to pick and choose what types of coverage they feel like offering that day. In the end, those who are left to suffer are the average citizens. I won’t even get on the uninsured. Their stories are often too harrowing to even comprehend.

As I said before, I’m sure that Mike’s got some ulterior motives with the way he presents his facts. That’s just how the dude gets down. But when you see a $10-15,000 operation in the U.S. that can be done in the U.K. for free or a $200 drug prescription in the U.S. that can be filled in Cuba for less than a dime, there are questions that have to be asked. Questions much greater than what type of manipulation Moore had to do.

Ultimately, I think that what’s most disturbing about the film is when you take Moore’s sentiments (which actually appear to be pretty genuine in this flick) and juxtapose them to the overwhelming sentiments of most of the folks in the GOP and even some Democrats. You know: the whole “Universal health coverage will cause the overall system to decline” people. Well, my question to them is simple: How can a person wear the “sanctity of life” badge on their shoulder while being against a plan that ensures that every person is taken care of? Then again, most pro-lifers are also pro-war and pro-death penalty too. So I guess that answers my question. I really shouldn’t be surprised by the rampant hypocrisy nowadays.

I'm not trying to toss out any Michael Moore plugs. But if you haven't seen this movie, you really should. You may not be a fan of his, but he does at least raise questions and concerns that most of the folks begging for out vote haven’t addressed yet.

After all, your life may depend on it.

- ACL

16 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Ellena said...

I personally like Michael Moore. I think that his documentaries are well researched, informative, and really bring to bear the antics of big business. He stands on moral high ground when it's not always popular to do so.

I haven't seen Sicko yet, but I think I might have to make spontaneous weekend plans. I'm interested to see what all the commotion is about.

Megan said...

I'm hoping that one day people will finally realize that health care is a right; and NOT a privilege!

Megan said...

I just talked to a friend of mine who lived in the UK during his military service. He basically confirmed some of the things that Michael Moore seems to suggest regarding health costs in that country. Twisted facts or not, you can't argue that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with our nation's health care.

KC said...

Yo Dre and to the rest of the board. To coin "The Coach" Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friend!

True, Mike Moore is a bold and daring editorialist (calling him a journalist is like calling Bill O'Reilly one). But one thing he is NOT is a moral authority. This dude is pretty big business himself. Didn't the dude own stock in Halliburton?!

Also, if he's so against big business what is he doing with the income he generates from his films? Did the proceeds he made from Roger & Me go back to Flint? How about the proceeds from Bowling for Columbine going to Colorado? I'd like to take a look at his financial statements. Then I can support a claim that he's on the moral high ground.

KC said...

Though I have to confess, I was pretty entertained by the College Chickhawk piece. I can't believe you almost became one of them.

Andre said...

@ Ellena: KC sorta addressed the big business thing. I think that Mike is a great film maker; but I often wonder about his intentions and his affluence myself. Don't be fooled by the dirty baseball cap and droppy clothes. This dude IS paid. Begs a few questions if you ask me.

@ Megan: "I'm hoping that one day people will finally realize that health care is a right; and NOT a privilege!"

Well put.

"Twisted facts or not, you can't argue that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with our nation's health care."

That's the point that I ultimately extracted from the movie. There are all sorts of things that are grossly exaggerated in the film (i.e. the number of uninsured is claimed to be over 50 million, when the Census Bureau reported less than 35 million.) Even though his numbers are clearly inflated, that still doesn't make up the 35 million uninsured any less important.

@ KC: Aside from maybe some tax-deductible charity, I'm not sure to what extent Moore profits/gives back. But as it relates to his business ventures: he said in his "Stupid White Men..." book that he doesn't own stock. But in that same year, he reported over $380,000 in corporate stocks and bonds to the IRS. Hmmm....

About the Chickenhawk GOP thing: Whew! Glad I stepped away from the dark side before it was too late. But if Democrats are the positive side of the force, the universe is screwed.

Cynthia said...

I've seen Sicko and I thought it was Michael's best work to date. "Genius" is not a word I tend to throw around often, but this was it.

People from all political walks of life need to see this film. Hyperbole based on real events is not the same to me as outright lying. Some of what he was saying may've been stretched, but at it's base, it's frightening true.

Mike said...

I tend to be a little more libertarian in my thinking. I think that most health care providers are full of crap but I also find that my HSA is pretty well off for me. I mean, what's the harm in letting the market drive health care; while also allowing the government to support those who can't afford it? The idea of socializing medicine is scary; no matter how you try to word it.

Andre said...

@ Cyn: No argument there. My only gripe with Mike in this movie was that he didn't necessarily need to exaggerate his numbers in order to make a point. He could've rested on actual figures and made just as much noise. Nothing will make a critic salivate more than finding inaccuracies.

@ Mike: I did a little reading on HSAs, but I still can make the claim to know much about them. On one hand, I heard that HSAs are pretty cool because they involve lower premiums and lower out-of-pocket expenses for people. On the other hand, some critics site that HSAs don't cover important things like basic preventative care until a large deductible is paid.

Again, I haven't done all my homework on HSA's. So until I do, I guess I'll just have to say that jury is still deliberating on this one. I'll have to get back with you later.

Andre said...

Mike, I forgot to mention: I couldn't find any literature to suggest that HSA's actually speak to the ridiculously rising costs of prescription meds and health services. Maybe I missed it. Do you know of any such sources to prove or disprove my idea?

Cynthia said...

Dre, on the Hippie Conservative's post you said "The industry continues to grow while people continue to get sick and uninsured. Manipulate any data in between; but those two bookends still exist."

That pretty much sums up my point in this post. :)

Andre said...

@ Cyn: Great minds think alike. :)

HeiressChild said...

i agree with megan that healthcare is a RIGHT and not a PRIVILEGE. it's just too bad that the healthcare industry and others in charge don't seem to think so. i'm on the end of the healthcare spectrum where i have limited coverage and have to come out of pocket for what's not covered. that's a whole other story.

i do think it's a shame that unless you're the president, vice-prez, mayor, governor, first lady or someone who??? is considered important enough???, quality healthcare just isn't an important enough issue to fix. it always seems to come back to $$$, power, greed.

The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
Once again, thanks for the plug. This was a great piece and I think you timed it well. Your bringing the issue back up at a time when everyone else is willing to put it on a shelf. I'm with you, this is not an "Issue of the Moment" that we should just let disappear. I was, and still am, concerned that M.M. would be the issue and not fixing our system. M.M. is dead on about what is wrong with our system, the problem is is he ignored what is right (R&D for instance). He also showed a real blindness to what's wrong in the other systems (14,000+ killed by a minor heat wave in France). If I could rally everyone to an ACHEIVABLE goal; let's push for a catastrophic coverage system for all those who are uninsured. The government would then make sure that anyone who is between jobs, is uninsured, or who is denied insurance wouldn't be forced into bankruptsy or huge dept. We have workable clinics that can pick up the slack. The complexities of going to a single-payer plan that would kill off the massive health care industry are to complicated to go into here, but rest assured, it is complicated and not likely to happen anyway. If we focus on just getting the uninsured covered (I know he's a Republican, but check out what Mitt Romney did in Mass. with the help of Ted Kennedy) we will have a starting point that will at least stop the bleeding. If we continue in this All-or-Nothing fashion I promise you we will still be standing here with the same problem 20 years from now....only worse. Great Post Andre!

"Never doubt that a small group of people can accomplish great things, Indeed, in all history, it's all that ever has."

HeiressChild said...

i'm reading now about how half a million americans a year are reportedly traveling overseas for quality medical care with U.S. trained drs, but are paying about half the costs that are incrued here in the states. not only that, people are reporting that while receiving excellent medical care in state-of-the-art hospitals, they are treated with much respect, and get to see the drs in a much less time span than here, which can take anywhere from a month to 3-4 months to get an appointment.

some of the countries listed were thailand (top of the list), india, singapore, hungary, south africa, dubai, costa rica, and brazil.

of course, drs encourage patients to receive their medical care close to home, but with health care costs sky-rocketing in the states, people have to do what's best for them.

open-heart bypass surgery
U.S. $60,000-$80,000
thailand $10,000

prostate cancer
U.S. $35,000-$40,000
thailand $5,000-$7,000

root canal
U.S. $900-$1,000
thailand $320

private hospital room per day
U.S. $1,000
thailand $150

Andre said...

@ Heiress: "i'm on the end of the healthcare spectrum where i have limited coverage and have to come out of pocket for what's not covered. that's a whole other story."

Though I've got pretty good coverage working at the University, I'm afraid of what would happen if I need catastropic medical assistance. I'd be screwed.

"i do think it's a shame that unless you're the president, vice-prez, mayor, governor, first lady or someone who??? is considered important enough???, quality healthcare just isn't an important enough issue to fix."

I guess this rules out blogging extraordinaires, eh?

@ Hippie:

"...this is not an "Issue of the Moment" that we should just let disappear."

Totally. If this thing loses any momentum before and especially AFTER election '08, we're in trouble. Both the Clinton and Bush Adminstrations have proven that they are not beholden to the voters once they get into office. Meanwhile the folks in Congress all sit back and continue to act in their own interests versus those of the people who support them.

"M.M. is dead on about what is wrong with our system, the problem is is he ignored what is right (R&D for instance)."

You're actually right on the money with this one. What many liberal activists fail to realize is that profit is not entirely bad when it comes to health care. Profit-driven efforts lead to much needed innovation and creativity in an ever-changing medical field. It's just a shame that profit has become the SOLE driving force.

"The complexities of going to a single-payer plan that would kill off the massive health care industry are to complicated to go into here, but rest assured, it is complicated and not likely to happen anyway."

Good. The last thing we need is for the government to pick up the tab for our health. If it were up to the government, we'd have to use limbs from dead Iraqi insurgents for prosthesis and their teeth for dentures.

Minus you sliding in an endorsement for Mitt "John Kerry, Jr." Romney, your assessment was on point. Thanks!

@ Sylvia (part II): In a class I took last year, we did an assessment of labor and occupational conditions in the United Arab Emirates. Similar to your figures on health care in Thailand, the UAE's data compared to Americanized medicine were amazing! I remember thinking thinking to myself that such inexpensive health care just HAD to be primitive. But their facilities are state of the art and their practictioners are recognized all around the world (and well paid, by the way). There has to be SOMETHING that America hasn't picked up on yet.

Sicko-ning...