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Michael Moore's Movie "Sicko" and Its Portrayal of US Healthcare

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Michael Moore released a new movie about the system of healthcare in the United States. In the movie, he portrays our healthcare system as one in crisis. Do you believe our healthcare system in this country provides the best quality of care to patients at a reasonable cost? Have you seen the movie Sicko? Do you think the movie accurately portrays problems with our healthcare system in America? Do you believe our healthcare system is in a crisis? I have not seen the movie but am interested in hearing from anybody who has.

According to press accounts, Moore presents stories about patients and their problems receiving quality healthcare. He also compares the healthcare system in the United States with systems in other countries and apparently advocates for a universal healthcare system in this country. Moore presents examples of patients who were evicted from their homes because they received costly medical services but could not afford to pay for the care. In another example, Moore presents a patient who, due to the overburdensome cost, had to choose between re-attachment of a severed index or ring finger but not both. In contrast, a Canadian patient using that country’s healthcare system would have been able to have all of his severed fingers re-attached at no cost.

I understand that the movie seems to advocate eliminating health insurance companies altogether from our system of healthcare and instead, providing a single payor government run or administered system for everybody. I am not sure our country can look to mandatory government run healthcare as the catchall answer to the complex problems and questions about access to healthcare and quality of service. I always have concerns when people suggest our government can create a new large bureaucratic program and have this program deliver quality services to everybody at low or no cost. Look at the Veterans Administration as an example of how medical care could be administered to patients and taxpayers throughout the country. Can we honestly say that our military veterans who sacrifice so much for this country receive quality healthcare? Based upon recent news accounts about problems at Walter Reed Medical Center and other VA medical facilities across the country, I do not believe that our military veterans receive the highest quality of medical care. If our military veterans do not receive adequate and quality healthcare, how can we believe that our government can successfully administer a healthcare program for everybody? Also, even if our government can successfully create a new bureaucracy to oversee healthcare delivery, what will this program cost? Our budget deficit already requires massive government borrowing which crowds out private sector access to capital. We probably cannot create such a massive bureaucracy without increasing taxes. Perhaps we should consider new taxes or user fees if raising taxes could lead to a reasonable resolution of the problems we see in our healthcare system. I am just not convinced that a new government program is the answer.

Last year, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill requiring health insurance for all citizens. According to the Washington Post,

The Massachusetts legislature approved a bill . . . that would require all residents to purchase health insurance or face legal penalties, which would make this the first state to tackle the problem of incomplete medical coverage by treating patients the same way it does cars.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R) supports the proposal, which would require all uninsured adults in the state to purchase some kind of insurance policy by July 1, 2007, or face a fine. Their choices would be expanded to include a range of new and inexpensive policies — ranging from about $250 per month to nearly free — from private insurers subsidized by the state.

This approach involves providing state subsidies for low income citizens; however, I do not know whether the legislation addresses problems associated with denial of coverage for pre-existing health conditions. The legislation took effect as of July 1 this year and presents one approach to addressing problems with the uninsured. Other health care policy study groups have been evaluating options and will likely present research in response to the Moore movie. Perhaps some of the suggestions in the Massachusetts model, the Rand Project, or other research initiatives can be looked upon and applied nationally if successful.

I commend Michael Moore for drawing our nation’s attention to the problem with healthcare in America and plan to see the movie soon. I do not necessarily agree with his apparent suggested solution; however, at least he increased our awareness of healthcare problems. Hopefully policymakers can come up with creative solutions to improve the quality and cost of care.