See Sicko

Regardless of your preconceived notions about Michael Moore and his movies, go see Sicko. Especially if you believe that Moore is wrong about the main contention in his new movie, namely that our health care system is broken and that universal free health care is the only alternative that makes sense, see this movie. If your mind is not at least partially changed by the time you exit the theater, have some one put their hand on your chest to see if you still have a heartbeat!

Even if you already support “single-payer” universal health care, you are still likely to be at least a bit surprised at the degree of contrast between our system, which operates on denial of coverage to the maximum extent so as to maximize the profits of the insurance companies, and the situations in countries such as Canada and France, where care is virtually free to 100% of the population.

As to protests of “socialized medicine,” Moore correctly points out that we already have “socialized” services in this country, and they work quite well for the most part: Fire departments, police departments, public libraries, and public schools. Why not assume that public health could be added to this list and do at least as well? It’s already working in the other countries Moore covers in the film. And the life expectancy in those countries exceeds our own!

As to protests that the picture Moore paints of the systems in Canada and France etc. is far rosier than reality, there is some truth to that. Still, Moore succeeds in dispelling the more common largely false stereotypes, such as that you have to wait hours and hours to be seen by a doctor and even then you may not qualify for the care you need.

Look, suppose I told you that you won a million dollars in the lottery. The only hitch is that it is not a million dollars if you choose to get the money in a single payment (rather than spread it out over 20 years). For a single payment, you only get $600,000. Even worse, about a third of that goes to taxes, leaving you with just $400,000. OK. So it’s not really as good as truly getting a million dollars. But it’s a lot better than the alternative of turning down the money altogether.

The same is true of universal health care. It may not be as good as its most ardent supporters suggest. But it is a lot better than the alternative of what we have now.

Yes, there are some valid criticisms of the movie. It attacks some non-profit insurance companies (together with for-profit ones) while claiming that a profit motive is the main reason that the companies deliver such poor health care. It claims at the start of the movie that it is about people who have insurance, yet some of the examples later in the film focus on people with no coverage.

Still, these criticisms do not dent the overall impact of what the film gets right. When we see a video of a sick woman getting dumped from a taxi at a “skid row” location, still in her hospital gown, because the hospital did not want to care for her any longer — and contrast that to the care available to anyone and everyone in our neighbor to the north — it is truly hard to understand how we have tolerated our system for so long.

As pointed out by a French person in the film, democracy gives the poor and underprivileged power via their votes. Corporate lobbyists have tried to undermine this power through their contributions to Congress. And by discouraging us from voting. They have largely succeeded — which is why Congress will not pass a bill for true universal health care any time soon.

Even in my home state of California, the truly universal health care bill (SB 840, sponsored by Shiela Kuehl) is getting lost in the shuffle of the far weaker bills (which still leave the insurance companies in place) put forward by our Governor and the Democratic Party.

If there is any hope for major change any time soon, it will only come if enough of us use the power of the ballot box to force the change. It’s up to you to take action.

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