Friday, June 22, 2007

The Irony of Health Care

When you reach a certain age, you worry about health care. You worry about your insurance policy. You worry about what to do when you find yourself languishing on a hospital bed with an expensive disease. And then you think about all those years you've been trying to earn a decent living, only to be ripped off by a medical bill, or an insurance claim that doesn't pull through.

Michael Moore's latest documentary Sicko does a healthy job in revealing the ironies of the American health care system, contradictions that many Americans are already aware of yet sadly succumb to. It's hard enough getting insurance coverage, but ultimately frustrating getting yourself treated. In one of the opening scenes, a man whose middle and ring fingers had been accidentally sliced off is given the option of paying $60000 to reattach the former, or $12000 to reattach the latter. In another, a woman who had been found to have a brain tumor is denied treatment--the authorities had declared the tumor as a non-threat. She died, of course.

Sicko reminds me of a friend based in Georgia who at the time was suffering from pneumonia. I told him over chat to go to a hospital, but he said the hospital wouldn't admit him because it wasn't a serious illness. Until now, I couldn't understand the logic.

After diagnosing the American situation, Moore travels to Canada which enjoyed more citizen-friendly health care. Then he hies off the Great Britain, where the state-run hospitals do everything at virtually no-cost. He asks the patients and the doctors how much the fees were, and everyone swears that they hardly paid a cent if any at all. Moreover, the man at the cashier's window doesn't collect anything-- he instead gives out money for patients' transportation expenses.

Moore documents a similar situation in France, which includes government-paid nannies and doctors that make house calls. In Fidel Castro's Cuba, Moore even brings with him a few sickly Americans who later experience free treatment at the Havana Hospital, and are given medicines that are priced at a ridiculous fraction of the cost in the US.

What really struck me about Sicko, beyond the shocking divide in health care practices, is Moore's insightful commentary. When other countries make a great product or develop promising technology, the US is quick to respond with better products and technologies, and yet falters when the health of the people is concerned.

Moore's agenda is obvious, and his maverick ways may not meet a lot of approval. But he has a way of packaging his opinions in a format that inspires critical thought, if not deep reflection, about how governments act to serve and inspire their people, and how people find themselves powerless in supposed democracies.

3 comments:

the philosphical bastard said...

i dont know what to make of this. for one, it is ideal but i dont like michael moore's presentation.. it's like he glorifies himself for finding yet again what is right for america. part of it is obviously propaganda. enlightening film though

Carver said...

I'm ambivalent when it comes to michael moore (I've never seen Farenheit 9/11), but his method is strategically sound. What I do like about what he does is that he puts a face on the issue--his own--which provides the human link to the subject. It may not be the best face, but his unglamorous "everyman" look lends to the experience.

I'll admit to feeling being taken for a ride in some parts of Sicko, those bits that scream propaganda. But, like you said, the docu is very enlightening.

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