Friday, November 23, 2007

Can we fix American health care... one movie at a time?

I just finished watching SiCKO by Michael Moore. I was just starting to feel better and now I feel really sick.

In light of what I have gone through over the past few months, and what my family and I had gone through with my mother (another story for another time), and now that I've watched this movie, I am more worried for the future of this country than ever. And I've been one of the lucky ones in that I only have to fight with my insurance company every few months to get the medication I need. Not all the medication I need, but at least I'm getting something. So many are so very worse off than I.

I want to see both sides. That's how I roll. I understand that sensationalism strikes harder than just simple facts and figures (almost 50 million people uninsured in this country. That's not so simple, is it?) and a filmmaker like Moore is very good at what he does - telling his side of a story. So where's the other side? Let's hear it. Where's the argument for private, corporate-fueled health care versus universal health care? I'm open to any explanations. I want to make an informed decision. There is an election coming up after all.

I'm having a hard time finding any evidence that can make me believe our current system is the best it can be. Especially when we rank so low in things like infant mortality and life expectancy. And we're ranked by the World Health Organization in their list of World's Health Systems at number 37. Moving to France is looking pretty good right about now. They're at number 1. And they drink wine with every meal.

I haven't even begun to cover maternity leave, infant health care, or daycare. It all makes me very tired. But I can't afford to be tired. I don't think any American can. So let's hear it... Tell me I'm getting all worked up about nothing, and be prepared back it up, or let me know what you'd do to fix our broken health care system. I do believe we have a chance to fix American health care if it needs fixing - which I believe in my heart of hearts that it does - either through our voices or through our vote.

I really am tired so I'm going to sleep on it and hope in the morning I'll have clearer answers. It seems funny to leave such an important subject without some nice wrap up all tied with a red bow, but it seems fitting somehow to leave it open ended. I don't have the luxury of DVD extras and months of editing.


Girlplustwo said...

i don't have an opposing argument. i'm too busy finding a new doctor in Cuba.

Lara said...

the only opposing argument i can come up with (and i'm not saying i agree with it, but i do know it's an argument) is that we're a capitalist nation, and as such, we should leave everything to a free market system. that means private companies that can hike prices up as much as they want, so long as people are still willing to pay it. capitalism is pretty heartless when it comes down to it.

as for me, i've been through struggles. my job teaching preschool came with no benefits of any kind, and my bout of depression got me rejected for independent health care. so i'm currently paying cash for any and all prescriptions, doctor's visits, etc. and you know what? it sucks. but i'm lucky enough that for now, at least, i can still make ends meet. i'm trying not to take that for granted.

Bea said...

I'm an outsider, but as far as I know, the main argument is that publicly funded health care is the thin edge of the communist wedge. That argument sounded at least a little bit more convincing a decade ago when the American economy was a powerhouse. Now that the war is sucking the life out of it, though, it's a harder sell.

Anonymous said...

Please remember that there are 2 sides. And much of what Moore says is propaganda. I agree that you should look at both sides of things, but just because our present state of things looks bleak in your eyes, it doesn't mean that the OTHER side is necessarily better.

Personally, universal healthcare scares the CRAP outta me.

Kudos for wanting to find out more about each side. I'll give you some great reads, if you are interested.


Julie Pippert said...

I have only heard these counterarguments:

1. It's already in place (our current system) and you can't change that

2. Free market system

3. It's not up to the government to take care of everyone's health (which is sort of a corollary to the "no socialist/communist deals")

I haven't run across anything non-prejudicial or convincing.

You are smart to listen to the other side...I am curious and hopeful someone will have an intelligent argument.

You are also smart to question any statistics.

Did you see Heidi's (Family Adventure) recent post about Norway and its programs?

Of course it's tough for me, as health care is hands down our biggest financial crisis in my family...and as I watch a friend struggle with how to care for her family without insurance.

Using My Words

Anonymous said...

Why is universal health care scary? At least then everyone has the same right to treatment.

Our system here in Canada is flawed, but regardless of our income, we can rest assured that we will be seen for medical treatment if the time comes.

cooler*doula said...

Amen, Assertagirl.

My husband is self employed, we're self insured. It costs crazy money, and seems to cover very little. Including zero maternity benefits... I'm 12 weeks pregnant. Provided all goes well, and I can stay with my midwives, that's $5k.

And my son just had major surgery to correct a congenital hand difference. We're waiting to see what that bill will be. I think we ended up paying about $5k on the first surgery that took place last year...

Good times...

Blog Antagonist said...

I haven't seen Sicko because I don't like Michael Moore. But you know where I stand on this. I am all for a government sponsored health care system. Capitalism and health care as joint endeavors just does not work. Whenever the bottom line becomes a priority, people suffer. And people are suffering. It's got to stop.

S said...

I saw this movie three days ago.

And agree with every word you've written here.

Anonymous said...

Sure, everyone should get medical coverage. But do you know how much that will cost? And how long you might have to wait to see a doctor? Or get treated? You want the government to TELL you which doctor you have to see?

I'm for little government. Sure, universal healthcare looks all rosy on the outside, but I don't think many people realize the rights you will give up as an American, and how much it will ALL cost ALL of us. I wouldn't want the government to tell me that myself or a family member couldn't receive medical treatment for WHATEVER reason. You smoke? Too fat? Or that I couldn't get a second opinion. Or be on a waiting list for YEARS? And that is what they'll be able to do.

The government has a hard time running things in this country already - you want to trust THEM to make MEDICAL decisions for you and your family, too?

No thanks.

Kyla said...

Don't look at me for a counter-argument. Did you read my post about the insurance shit-storm we are currently in? It is effing ridiculous. These are the posts, in case you'd like to read them: Here and here.

Everydaytreats said...

Hmmm. The argument that universal healthcare would mean that the gov't would decide what treatment you could get and that that's a bad thing doesn't hold water for me since right now private companies have that power.

I'm no economist, but why can't we have the basics covered and then use our awesome capitalist powers for elective procedures and such?

karengreeners said...

mamalee - you're right, maybe the u.s. gov't. is so ridiculous that it would never be able to put in place a successful public health care system.

but just to clarify, what you describe is not what the canadian system is like at all. no government agency decides what doctor we see, and i've never heard of anyone not getting a second opinion should they seek it. sometimes you have to wait a little bit longer for someone specific, and in certain areas there are simply not enough doctors to go around. that, unfortunately is a problem that reaches far beyond countries with socialized medicine.

And as far as the awesome capitalist power that is the US - insn't our dollar kicking some greenback ass?

Maureen Fitzgerald said...

John Stossel (who I usually think is a whiney brat)did a very insightful (ouch - it hurts me to use insightful in the same sentence as his name)piece in response to Moore's movie. It shed some light on some of Moore's "facts and figures" that turn out to be not as factual as you would think.

Not that I am in favor of the way healthcare is set up just scares me to think of the gov't being in charge of it. Getting my driver's license renewed is a major ordeal - can you imagine what a throat culture would be like??? said...

Our healthcare system as it is set up now is darwinistic survival of the economically fittest. And a lot of people aren't surviving.

I have health insurance. I still have no choice in the doctors I can see. I can't afford to go without health insurance. I've tried to pay cash for a lower rate and have been told that any doctor who lowers their rates for cash payment is basically taking part in insurance fraud. I've waited good long times to see specialists here. I've been denied coverage even with insurance. I've spent days of my life arguing with insurance companies who have screwed up payments.

This system sucks.

I have neighbors who have lost their homes; I have friends who can't afford to get their teeth fixed; I have family who are making decisions between groceries and medications. And these are people who are working hard, working two and three jobs.

SICKO is not sensationalized in that respect. Not in the least.

I don't know what the answer is, but I can speak French and from what I remember living there, the wine and month-long vacations made for fairly civilized living.

Denice said...

I haven't seen Sicko, but I live in Canada and have a different perspective, probably. We have Universal Health Care, but we pay VERY HIGH TAXES for it and the system is on the verge of collapse because we don't have enough taxpayers, population wise, to pay for all the baby boomers who are starting to reach retirement age and need more health care.

Waiting lists are long for many procedures like hip or knee replacements, and in some cases, cancer treatment. And because many of our Canadian born and trained doctors have gone to the U.S. where they can make more money, we don't have enough doctors to go around and many, many people in this country don't have a family doctor.

Also, most Americans don't know that in addition to paying high taxes for our health care, most of us also have some form of health insurance to cover the costs of things like drugs, dental and vision care, ambulance rides, etc.

Having said all that, I must admit that it is a very nice feeling to know that when I am sick, I can go to a doctor and someone will take care of me, no matter how much money I have in the bank. Just thought you might want to hear the other side of things.

FENICLE said...

I have not seen this yet. I really need to though!!

junation said...

Really hard to argue for 37th place

Hannah said...

I don't disagree that our Canadian system has its problems. Of course it does. And the baby boomers overstressing the system is an issue that's difficult to deal with. But here's what I know for sure:

1. my father-in-law has had non-hodgkin's lymphoma for 11 years. in that time, he has had 7 rounds of chemotherapy and 1 round of radiation. This is covered by the system. I don't want to imagine what such treatment would cost in the US.

2. my two sisters and brother all suffered from severe childhood asthma. Their hospital stays were covered, of course, as were doctor visits. And because we were a low-income family, we paid a significantly reduced rate for drugs.

3. When my son had viral pneumonia last fall, we were able to get an appointment at a walk-in clinic within a half hour, a chest x-ray later that morning, and a diagnosis by the next day. All covered by our health care system.

Yes Denice, we pay higher taxes. And yes, some procedures do have long waiting lists. And rural areas often do not have enough doctors to go around. This is not unique to Canada. And I would far rather everyone in the country share the burden of paying for the system, than forcing those people who can least manage it - people facing life-threatening illness or injury - to bear it all alone. That's what makes me a proud Canadian, and why I say there needs to be limits on any free market economy, for the good of everyone.

Here endeth my leftist-pinko Soviet Canuckistan rant. :)

Kara said...

We seem to be ignoring the pack of 1 million pound gorillas in the room as we debate this issue. One of the reasons healthcare (and many other things, for that matter) is so expensive in the US as opposed to other parts of the world has to do with the cost of doing business. Included in every office visit is the cost of education and ballooning malpractice insurance. Sure that pill you're taking costs $.004 to manufacture, but there's billions in R&D as well as the billions in payola (let's call a spade a spade) to prescribers folded into the cost of our prescriptions. Most of my family members work in health care (and I worked in a hospital many moons ago), and the waste I've seen in how hospitals, HMO's, Medicaid, and drug companies run their businesses is staggering.
I have family who live in a country w/ Nat'l healthcare... they get everything they need- the preventative basics, anyway- to help them maintain good health. If one of them were to contract a rare illness, the care they would get, sadly,is rather basic. For the insured, there's no doubt that we have the best medical care in the world.
We also have a population (insured or not) hell bent on eating itsself to death in front of the television. When we cite the Nordic countries and the health and governmental systems, we also need to remember that overall, they're healthier in lifestyle, more active,and more educated societies who pay a larger percent of income in taxes, but who have different national budgetary priorities- look at their military spending as a percent of GNP compared to ours...
I know where I stand on this issue... what we have now is broken for so many reasons. We need to cut the fat in the exisiting systems and raise the income threshold for federally subsidized healthcare so that working families can get help when they need it. Those who can afford to pay for private insurance, SHOULD pay.

BOSSY said...

Oy - you are definitely not imagining this -- these issues make Bossy want to move to Mexico. That and the smell of fresh corn tortillas wafting out from the hills, and the dry air filled with jacaranda blossoms, and the sound of distant bells through the cobblestone streets, and the Mariachi music that seeps from the corner bar serving margaritas and -- Chicky? What were you saying? Fer chrissake.

mamatulip said...

What Kgirl said.

kittenpie said...

I'll tell you something - having lived in both Canada and the US, I prefer Canada's system. We do have higher taxes, but by the time you pay for health insurance in the States, you're paying at least as much. And then you can be refused insurance for a litany of reasons, and tons of things aren't covered. Here, by contrast, employers typically cover 100% of your supplementary insurance for full-time employees. (That covers drugs, glasses, privats hospital rooms, those kinds of extras.)

I think part of it is fear of the unknown and mistrust of the government, which runs deep.

NH Yocal said...

This is basically how I felt after seeing Sicko. I myself, have some first hand experience as well as researching this topic with breast cancer patients. Here was my post...

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Call me a Commie, but I'd go for access to universal health care any day. Mrs. Chicky, since here in MA, we're supposed to have 'universal' health care now (right?), we could have a pretty good 'test case' right under our noses. If it can work here, it can work anywhere, I hope.

Creative-Type Dad said...

This is tough.

I don't think you fixed a flawed system by swinging the pendulum to the extreme.

After dealing with HMO bureaucracy for years (later switching to PPO) I don't know if I could even stomach a government bureaucracy running healthcare.
I have family and friends that work for the fed's and local county and for every $1 they spend 70% of that is wasted. Government isn’t anywhere as efficient as private business and decisions aren't necessarily made for everybody's benefit. And if things go wrong they just lower quality rather than fixing things and it snowballs.

I can't even imagine what kind of waste will happen if they take over healthcare.

Seems to me like we're headed for a semi-socialist healthcare where the government cares for the truly "uninsurable" and everybody else buys private.

Oh and buy the way, the wife lived in France for years and the healthcare sucked. She compared it to the DMV, but with worse service. She had to fly to her parents in Atlanta and see a doctor to get over bronchitis.

Anonymous said...

Here's a viewpoint that no one ever talks about because I don't think anyone except medical doctors and their spouses even think about it...

How about thinking about how universal health care would affect physician salaries?

What happens when the salaries in an industry fall?

And consider what would happen to a particular industry where the cost of obtaining a license to practice medicine can easily reach a quarter of a million dollars (after college and med school)?

Universal healthcare = lower physician salaries.

Smart people will NOT suffer through med school and residency to work like slaves for the government for a shitty salary. They (I) will NOT work for pennies on the dollar reimbursements from the government while trying to pay off huge school debts with huge interest rates.

Dumber doctors = scary medicine. This is what happened in Russia. They had to drastically reduce medical school admission standards to deal with the physician shortage, and anyone with a pulse got into med school and became a doctor.

No. fucking. thank you.

And that is waht no one talks about...all we hear about are insurance companies fleecing everyone, and people bitching about copayments at the doctor's office.

How many of us spend hundreds a year on hair, nails, makeup, salon services, massages, vacations, and yet balk at paying for healthcare?

Where are our priorities?

and WHY do people want to have Mr. Government bail them out of every situation?

Ms. Huis Herself said...

Ok, I must confess I haven't taken the time to read every one of the other comments, but I lived in Ireland for two years in their public health care system and it... wasn't ideal. Huge waits for surgery, etc. are common. 6 months of waiting to get results for something as simple as a PAP smear, facilities are run-down and look like an out of date high school, your post-partum room is a ward with 4-8 other women... not ideal. Definitely not ideal. I'll pay some out of pocket expense - copays and monthly premiums - for what we have here.

(But if I didn't have/couldn't afford health insurance? Then public is at least something!)