Sickened

"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."
Mahatma Gandhi

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.

#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.

9 Responses to “Sickened”

  1. # Blogger Marie

    Of course his films are meant to appeal to emotion, with scenes selected specifically to support his agenda. The fact is, he could do such a film on the health-care system in Canada or France, or wherever else it’s footed by the tax-payer, or “free,” choosing scenes carefully, and call it by the same name. But he wouldn’t, as that wouldn’t fit his agenda.

    Here’s an interesting review of the film:
    http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1563758/story.jhtml  

  2. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I could not agree with this post more. Americans are SO brainwashed by what our capitalistic society wants us to believe. I know a lot of French people, English people and Canadians, all of whom readily say that, while their system is not without its flaws, it is worlds superior to ours'. And I can attest to the inefficiency of the American system (even with superb, top of the line, non-HMO insurance). In the past two weeks, I have spent a total of 15 hours waiting in hospital waiting rooms just to find out that my files were lost, jumbled or otherwise misplaced. It is a travesty. I am quite certain the CEO of Blue Cross does not wait in ERs.

    As for the idea that the film is meant to appeal to emotion, I can say firsthand as someone who witnessed someone dying of breast cancer in my home while being denied health care coverage that there is nothing more emotional or more TRUE then what Moore showed. My father fought tooth and nail to get my mother's bills paid. He only won because he is a lawyer and happened to have friends who could pull strings. We were very, very, very lucky. And she still died.

    Each time people suggest that being "footed by the taxpayer" is a bad thing, let's remember where our tax dollars go: to a war that is making our war criminal president and his cronies richer (that he LIED to get us into). Call me crazy, but if my tax dollars are going to go anywhere, I would rather they go to help an 18-month-old live to see her 18th birthday.  

  3. # Blogger Tracey

    Whether or not people like Michael Moore's films or not, the obvious truth is that our health system is seriously flawed. This was apparent to most of us BEFORE the movie came out. His movie just gave it an incredible boost of attention. Perhaps it will help, who knows? But my opinion is that the system is SO flawed, that it requires a serious overhaul. And I can't imagine any of our leaders truly sacrificing their careers to try and fix it. I just can't...  

  4. # Blogger l

    sigh Healthcare in the US is such an embarrassment. It isn't care at all. Did you know that Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than we do? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate  

  5. # Blogger Christine

    I agree that there needs to be some sort of change. I'm not sure that we should model ourselves after Canada or France, but at the same time...something's got to give. Do you read Kyla at The Journey? www.khebertb.blogspot.com. They're going through a hell of a time right now.

    (Also I'm just catching up -- CONGRATULATIONS on the baby making! And best of luck!)  

  6. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I have yet to see Sicko, so don't feel too embarrassed, Kristi. I'm adding this one to my Netflix.  

  7. # Blogger Binulatti

    Can you believe the audacity of Moore's "agenda" to help people?! I mean - how dare he try and expose the corruption and for-profit machine who makes their billions on the backs of suffering people? How dare he seek to motivate us to ask for change so that sick Americans can become well without losing their homes or worse? That Michael Moore and his do-gooding agenda. Making us cry by editing footage of people fighting no-win battles against multibillion-dollar industries and dying unjustly. He must hate freedom. He should just go hunting with Dick Cheney.

    Pfft. Sicko made me cry, and want to punch walls. It's unconscionable that the insurance companies and Big Pharma are welcomed to the beds of elected (or appointed) leaders. There is hope for this to change in '08, we have to believe  

  8. # Blogger MsPrufrock

    Question - isn't it obvious Michael Moore has an agenda? That's THE WHOLE POINT. The agenda is pointing out the shitty system that currently exists. Obviously if you're arguing something, you present evidence in favour of the point you are trying to make. Right-wingers wouldn't have an agenda? Of course not. Pfft...

    As you know I plan on doing my own post on this very subject, as soon as I have the motivation to write the good post this area deserves. My current experience in the UK is manageable compared to the hell that some members of my family and others I know have to deal with in the US in regard to healthcare.

    Interestingly, we watched Sicko in a theatre in the US when we were there on holiday. My husband and I sat there thrilled that we didn't have to worry about living in that system anymore.

    The story about the 18 month old makes me cry even now. Shocking.  

  9. # Blogger Shannon

    I know what it is like to have zero health insurance... for 2 years we didn't have it because Jeremy's work made a mistake but wouldn't fix the problem... during that 2 years I had pnemonia 3 times, bron 5, etc... we almost had to declare bankrupsy because we couldn't afford the meds... my family doc was great and didn't charge me the 150 to see them... and tried to give me free drugs... but when you need kill drugs they cost a ton!! One script was $200... we lived on tuna for 3 weeks because we had no money for food... so I am all for free healthcare... and heck there is already huge long waits in PA for docs and surgery because PA has the high malpractice insurance in the country and docs are leaving right and left...  

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