Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Movies: Sicko

This is the first (and to date only) Michael Moore film I've ever seen, but I've heard plenty of the ruckus made about his style over the past few years. It is, of course, all true. He's plenty off-putting, both physically and socially, but he has a knack for propaganda, and I happen to agree with him on many accounts.

Propaganda: yes, that's the word I used, and that's what this film is filled with. It seems that Moore has worked hard to find the sickest, saddest, and stupidest Americans (except for the fit and stylish bourgeois yuppies living the glorious expat life in France) with which to illustrate the failings of our privatized health care system. For example, one woman, who had Kaiser, noticed that her young daughter was running a fever of over 104˚ and brought her to the hospital (but not the Kaiser hospital). When the receptionist refused to admit her, telling the woman to bring her daughter to the Kaiser hospital in town, the (dumb as a doorknob) mother continued to insist that they treat her daughter right there. She continued to argue with the admissions desk for hours, until her daughter went into cardiac arrest and died. Is this a failing of our health care system, or a failing of a woman's intelligence? Exactly. Moore would have you think otherwise, though.

He does better in depicting the behind the scenes reality: lobbyists buying congressmen's votes in Washington, and doctors, investigators, and administrative staff hired by insurance companies to either reject health care applicants, reject payment for requested life-saving services, or take back payments they've already remitted for services already rendered. The money machine is what, ultimately, makes the difference for a logician like myself; I'm certain that lengthy shots of crying widows move other Americans, but I admit to being hard of heart, particularly where the proletariat is concerned. But Moore points out that firefighters and policemen are paid by the government, as are public school teachers, and it is clear that health care correlates closely with safety and education as a service a public ought to demand from its government in exchange for their tax dollars. And I would be willing to have my taxes raised (unlike most other Americans) in exchange for free, universal health care (although I would prefer to see corporate tax raises, as companies would no longer bear the burden of insuring their employees).

Which brings me around to the big '08 election. I like Obama, but I'm far from in love with his health care plan (leave the employer-insurance connection unchanged, and provide subsidies for the currently uninsured, further, have the government foot the bill for expensive "emergency" services like cancer treatment, heart surgery, etc.) I can't stand Edwards, but he has a pretty good-looking plan (described as bringing socialized medicine to our country via a Trojan Horse in this good article) that, like Obama's, has a good chance of passing, but, unlike Obama's, would bring actual change. I have insurance, and I don't have any great complaints other than the fact that it doesn't cover certain vaccines that I consider important (e.g. the HPV vaccine, which consists of three $175 injections). But I prefer the efficiency possible in a single-payer system. As a good capitalist, do I worry that a lack of competition and profit-seeking will lead to a decrease in quality of care and innovation? Theoretically, it would, but Moore makes a convincing argument that it hasn't done so in England, France, or Cuba (my favorite two people in the film, in fact, are the young English and Cuban doctors Moore talks with, who seem competent, humble, and frankly embarrassed at the praise that is lavished upon them by Moore and his coterie (at one point, the Cuban doctor looks at the American woman he's treating, who is sobbing in gratitude, and pats her on the shoulder awkwardly, saying, "You don't have to cry. Everything is going to be okay."

I certainly hope it will be, though I have my doubts.

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