As a fan of Michael Moore's work, I am embarrassed that it's taken me this long to watch his latest film, Sicko. But a few weeks ago, I did, and as I am each time after watching one of his movies, I am pissed off.
Sicko is a documentary about the pitiful and criminal state of the profit-driven American healthcare industry.
50 million Americans don't have health insurance. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without universal healthcare. The World Health Organization ranked the health care systems of 190 countries. The United States ranked #37.
We claim to be the greatest country in the world. I would argue, not so, when we take such abyssmal care of our most needy citizens.
Consider the following facts:
The CEOs of the United States' HMOs are millionaires. Some are billionaires. Their pockets are lined while women are denied experimental treatment for breast cancer, babies die because they're taken to out-of-network hospitals where they're refused treatment for life-threatening illnesses, and 9/11 volunteers can no longer breathe properly because they cannot afford the drugs to help them.
Many people believe a universal healthcare system would not work in this country because they view the government-sponsored systems of other countries, such as Canada, the UK, and France, as fundamentally flawed. Many Americans believe that citizens of these countries wait months or even years for surgeries, and receive sub-standard care, when in fact the health care systems of these countries take as good if not better care of their citizens as we do here. And if universal health care was so dangerous, then why are the people in these countries living longer than U.S. citizens? And why is the infant mortality rate higher in the United States than in many other countries that offer a government health care program?
Move to France and get a free government-provided nanny. That's right- pop out a kid, and the French government, who not only gives you 16 weeks of 100%-paid maternity leave, will also send you over a nanny to do your laundry, make your dinner, wash your precious bundle's bottles, or do whatever other various and sundry baby-care tasks you need her to while you're getting used to motherhood. Because being a mom is really, really tough in the first few months. It can wreck serious havoc on your mental health. And the French? They seem to get that a little free help goes a long way toward helping mama feel a bit better about the wailing 8-pound creature in the swing in the corner of the living room.Sicko was also full of heartbreaking stories: a 79 year-old-man working full-time as a janitor at a grocery store so he can receive health benefits to afford his and his wife's drugs. An 18-month-old girl who died after suffering a seizure because she was turned away at an out-of-network hospital. 9/11 volunteer rescue workers sick with respiratory ailments and without treatment because they weren't city employees when they were digging in the pile of the Twin Towers and were therefore not covered by the city's health plan. And many, many people turned away for treatment considered "experimental" (read: too expensive).
People shouldn't have to choose between health care and basic human needs, such as food or rent. They shouldn't have to work into their 80s so they can afford prescription drugs that are free or practically free in every other industrialized nation in the world.
For me, the bottom line is this. Any one of us, no matter how healthy a lifestyle we lead, can be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Any one of us, no matter how secure our job, can lose it and suddenly our family is without healthcare. And our lives can change drastically in that instant. Suddenly we have to choose between feeding our kids breakfast and buying the drugs we need to survive. Suddenly we have to make a choice between rent or radiation. It isn't fair, and it isn't right.
Universal healthcare isn't without its flaws. This post by Pru illustrates that. But it is leagues better than the corporate greed-fueled healthcare system in the United States.
Americans should absolutely have universal healthcare as a right of citizenship.