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A PICTURE OF HEALTH




Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko, is an extremely important movie that should be seen by everyone


A large portion of the film is devoted to health insurance and the denial of coverage for medical problems.  There are many vignettes of people who thought they had coverage, and the consequences that ensued.   There are also many revelations from insurance insiders that show the effect of healthcare delivered with profit motives.   Fifty percent of bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical expenses.  18,000 people die from lack of insurance and some 46 million people do not have health insurance.


In 2005, healthcare cost more than $6,000 per person and consumed over 16% of the gross domestic product.  The next closest country, Switzerland spends $4077 per person per year or 11.5% of its GDP.  All other countries spend much less.  The United States has the most expensive system in the world, and by most measurements of health performance, it falls behind all of the major industrialized countries in the world.  The United States alone treats health care as a commodity to be delivered according to ability to pay rather than as a social service to be distributed according to medical need.


Life expectancy in the United States is 78 years ranking 45th in the world.  The US infant mortality rate is 6.37 per 1000 live births, higher than almost all other developed nations as well as Cuba. 


Rising costs with limited access is a major factor in our declining overall quality.  While many people struggle to get health care, United Healthcare recently gave its retiring CEO $1.3 billion in stock options as well as over $5 million a year in salary benefits.  Sicko also touches on other areas of soaring costs including the pharmaceutical industry (big pharma) and hospitals.


Some aggressive money making tactics of hospitals are revealed.  Most disturbing was the dumping of patients from a hospital to skid row.  The phenomenon of dumping or rejecting patients and referring elsewhere has gone on for a long time.  Numerous laws have been made which have helped to curb this for the most part.  Not much was said about other system costs such as physician services, liability, or the diminishing returns for expensive technology.


The last part of the movie was spent on healthcare in other countries including Canada, England, France, and Cuba.  His presentation of health care in these countries was the source of much media criticism.  While it might have been ambitious to present health care in other countries, the inescapable fact is that countries with national health insurance are generally healthier.


If I were to criticize the movie at all, I would say he "pulled his punches".  As a healthcare "insider", I know that many of the problems to which he alluded were much deeper and more serious than presented.  As we look to change the situation, I believe people need to realize the role of money and corruption in our political system.  The profiteers in health care are very powerful, and their influence was shown in Sicko.  Most recently in Oregon, the insurance industry foiled the efforts of Dr Kitzhaber to get through a bill related to providing health care for everyone.


Everyone I know understands and agrees that the current health situation is terrible.  Many people have different views on the causes.  After viewing Sicko, we must now acknowledge the brutal facts.  Our obligation is to eliminate the inequities.  Only a comprehensive single-payer national health program will do this. 

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