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Watch ‘Sicko’ and Call Your Congressman in the Morning

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Posted on Jun 28, 2007

By Marie Cocco

WASHINGTON—The rudimentary equation of the health insurance industry is that to make a profit, it must take in more money than it pays out in claims. This is why the public, as distinct from the political class, will intuitively understand and likely appreciate Michael Moore’s new film, “Sicko.”

    There is nothing particularly startling about any of Moore’s stories of average Americans who are bankrupted, or who grow sicker, or who desperately seek treatment abroad, or who die because health insurance bureaucrats denied or restricted the care they could receive. When Moore put out an invitation on the Internet for people to come forward with their “health care horror stories,” he got more than 3,700 responses in the first 24 hours—within a week, he had amassed more than 25,000 stories.

    These affronts to common sense and human decency have a monotonous familiarity. There is the middle-aged couple who lose their home and are forced to move into a daughter’s basement because of financial catastrophe brought on by the co-payments and deductibles related to the husband’s treatment for three heart attacks—which were followed by the wife’s cancer diagnosis. There is the slender, 79-year-old man who works as a supermarket janitor to finance the out-of-pocket costs of his prescriptions.

    We meet a 22-year-old single mother whose treatment for cervical cancer is denied because her insurer said she was “too young” to have been given such a diagnosis. And a couple says that their daughter, who at 9 months was becoming deaf, would get coverage for only one cochlear implant—not two—because the insurer considered the surgery experimental. But, the perplexed father asks, if the company had confidence that the implant would work to improve hearing in one ear, why would it be “experimental” in the other?

    “I was told repeatedly that I was not denying care, I was simply denying payment,” Linda Peeno, a doctor and former managed-care medical claims officer, testifies in a video clip from a 1996 congressional hearing. Even this absurdity does not shock, because we have heard it so often, for so many years.


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    That is the real point of Moore’s film. We are guilty of national malpractice for allowing the profit motive to drive decisions about who gets healthcare, and of what sort. “Any payment for a claim is referred to as a medical loss,” Peeno says in the movie.

    After Moore’s film opens nationally on Friday, loud and contentious political talk about it is sure to grow louder. Much of it, no doubt, will be aimed at discrediting the national medical systems of Canada, Britain, France—and, yes, Cuba—which Moore holds up as models of compassionate efficiency. Much of it will consist of screeching broadsides aimed at Moore, who unnerves conservatives because he is not some pointy-headed liberal professor from Cambridge but a funny guy from Flint, Mich., who wears a baseball cap and did precisely what the right always preaches: He found something he was good at and made a fortune doing it.

    Much discussion also will be premised on the assumption that what Moore advocates—government-funded healthcare that would be available to everyone—is politically impossible in the United States because the American public recoils from it. Balderdash.

    The public embraces Medicare, which is government-funded healthcare that is available to all elderly people. It has an enduring affection for Social Security, another government-funded, universal benefit.

    As for government-funded health insurance, it would be enlightening if those who so reflexively assert that the public has already rejected it would just ask—well—the public. In a May CNN poll, 64 percent said they thought the government should “provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes.” In February, the New York Times/CBS poll found that 60 percent were willing to pay higher taxes so that everyone had insurance. In January, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked a similar question about paying more taxes for universal insurance and again a majority said yes.

    So on healthcare, Moore is no left-wing extremist, as so many Republicans claim. Nor is he much of a provocative nuisance, as some Democrats gripe. He is far closer to people’s thinking than are politicians of either party. The reason they fear Moore isn’t so much his movie, but its potential to upset their complacent caution.   

    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at symbol)   

    © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Wally Petrovich, June 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There has never been an Economic Democracy implemented or practiced anywhere in our human history.  Simply because the “private ownership” of society’s needed industries is transformed into “social” ownership and the democratic operations of these in our work places, where all citizens have a direct voice and vote in ALL matters that affect our lives…” for the benefit of the individual and society itself…., we should not “automatically” presume such a new system is replicating the USSR bureaucratic despotism which has been passed off to “We, the People” by the political state and the corporate oligarchy in our society as an example of “socialism.” Nothing is farther from the truth.

The USSR was a system of “STATE capitalism.” The wage working people there were treated the same as the working people here in this capitalist construct…

The only difference between that “State” capitalism and this “Private” capitalism…, was the matter of ownership. Otherwise…, commodity production and all the relationship between owners and workers were the same in both systems…, the most conspicuous one was the absence of DEMOCRACY in the work places…, and the absence of any real control of production by the people who actually are involved in all of the production.

When We, the People,  are in ownership and democratic operation of our socially necessary industies and services, only then will we have a sensible health care system for all…., as it should be in a sensible, peaceful and prosperous society ..., a description we cannot apply to our present one.

Wally P.

For your info….

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By mlevass, June 29, 2007 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

The so called intellectual elite are so quick to point to social systems and programs that failed or are failing in other countries.  Those that actually lived under these oppressive societies know the truth.

  I have experienced the “medical care” in numerous countries (England, Canada, Germany, France, Ukraine, Belgium). The health care system differed slightly in each of these countries but all were “government” health care and each had good and bad points (between each other). 

In 2003, more than 16,000 people died in Europe due to the heat wave.  Most of these deaths occurred in the month of August.  This was the period when doctors and most health care workers in France and a few other countries have mandatory vacation. 

The average wait for an MRI in Canada is 6 months. Ultrasound-3 months.  The appointments are made for you.  If you want to change the course of action, you pay.  The government decides when you will receive treatment.

In a poll by Stern, a german magazine (like TIME), german doctors were asked where they would prefer to be treated for a serious disease or medical condition.  The interviewer did not specify choices of German hospitals or clinics but expected most answers to be of facility in Germany.  93% of the doctors said The United States.  When asked which facility.  They said any large hospital.  Think of this for a second.  In there mind and quite expert knowledge, any large hospital in the US is better than any medical facility in Germany.

Socialism and Communism are proven failures.  The only way they are still gasping in some countries is due to the prosperity that capitalism brings.  Give me any example of a pure socialist or communist that has survived.  Heck…even the semi-socialist are barely hanging-on.  Don’t give me the new modified university moronic Marxist interpretation.

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By ctbrandon, June 28, 2007 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

I am all for quality health care for everyone. With optional services available for additional costs. But at the end of the day, no American should ever die simply because he or she lacked the money to pay for medical attention.


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By hackerguitar, June 28, 2007 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

Never been a better time for universal, government-run, not-for-profit healthcare. I believe that the HMOs need to have their backs broken by a quality public healthcare system. 

And FWIW, Mitt Romney should be ashamed of his market-based solution, as it’s horribly wasteful and unlikely to provide increased quality of care.  Market competition is horribly inefficient at providing healthcare - the hours that go into for-profit bookkeeping alone are duplicated company-by-company, with massive waste.  And the program is punitive to wage earners, essentially placing them on a platter as hors ‘d oeuvres for the for-profit healthcare industry.

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By Wally Petrovich, June 28, 2007 at 10:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When Mike Moore brings to our focus the economic system of capitalism…, and its corporatratic government…., which is the primary source of all that negatively besets our society…., rather than his both revelatory and profitable dwellings on all its destructive outcomes…, such as the Health industry and the Iraq invasion, among the system’s most current social travesties…he will be doing society a great service.

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By Bates, June 28, 2007 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great review. One more day til it hits theaters! Sure, people will be critical of other nations’ health systems but Moore says we need to take the best parts of all of them to make the “American system.”

Its time we join the rest of the modern world and make sure we all have health care. In our country, nobody should have to lose a home because of medical bills.

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By bluesky23, June 28, 2007 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

I’m all for a universal health care system.  There are too many people I know that are in circumstances where they can’t get the care they need.  My only concern with raising taxes to fund this system would be for those people who are, say, part of a union, and pay into a pool for healthcare and actually have better healthcare than the what the government may have.  I wouldn’t think it to be right to take that away from those people, or make them pay more for health care they aren’t going to use.

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