Wednesday, July 04, 2007

SICKO (the movie)

This is a movie for anyone who's paying too much of their paycheck for medical insurance, anyone who has to go through a book to find what doctor they're permitted to see, who can't get a second opinion without asking permission, can't see a specialist without asking permission, has to pay a large co-pay for care or for drugs, doesn't have insurance, knows people who don't have insurance and are not getting adequate treatment because they can't afford it, has no dental coverage, has to wait weeks for an appointment, or simply cares about their fellow Americans who are sicker or poorer than they are. That's just about everone I know.

This is not a movie to see if you're an insurance executive, an HMO administrator who is eager to advance in your "career" or are George Bush or Richard Nixon. Lots of people think they don't like Michael Moore's movies because they didn't like his politics in Fahrenheit 9/11 -- well the only thing I don't like about Michael Moore is that I wish he'd lose 50 or 60 pounds and learn to shave and maybe trash the baseball cap. I've always liked his politics. But the healthcare issue and the underlying capitalist/lobbying/insurance/drug company problem is one I've felt strongly about since I had a one-day temp job a long, long time ago in an insurance company's dental coverage division where three dentists were paid to do nothing but comb carefully through policies and dental records to find reasons to reject claims. It was one of the angriest days of my life.

I had no health insurance for neaerly 25 years. I made a careful calculation and judgement approximately every 3 or 4 years during that period. I worked then, as now, as an independent contractor. I looked into health insurance plans I could get through organizations to which I belonged. The rates, of course were higher and higher each time I looked. I decided to be prudent in all the things I could control; I saw an internist regularly, had mammograms and pap smears, I ate well, exercised, did not have a lot of stress and when the familial hypertension was high for the second year in a row I asked for the most basic medications which were the least expensive -- and am still on the same ones, at higher doses nowadays but my blood pressure is under control. I was aware that I could fall and break something, could be hit by a car or have some other accident but the odds were in my favor. As a result for those years, including dental [with a couple of expensive root canals thrown in] my health care -- paying for doctor's visits and tests and for all drugs out of pocket -- I spent about a tenth what the insurnace would have cost -- and that insurnace cost would have been ON TOP of the out of pocket because that wasn't even up the total deductible I'd have had to pay. So I made a calculated choice and thumbed my nose at the insurance world.

Moore speaks to a British peer who says the reason poor people in countries without universal health coverage do not rise up and demand it is fear and ignorance. We Americans are being made the most fearful people on earth -- this is me ranting, not Michael Moore -- Ads tell us we must disinfect everything we touch or the Big Bad Germs will get us, ads tell us must take pills for every sniffle and ache and that our kids are hyperactive and we are bipolar or at least depressed and there's a pill for everything and several expensive tests we must all have with regularity. People are especially afraid that if they don't have health insurance they will go broke if they get in an accideent or have a disease -- well, many people with insurance indeed DO go broke because every insurance company has a batch of guys like those dentists I spent a day with and they're busy looking for ways not to pay for your treatment.

See the movie-- see what happens in Canada, France, England, Cuba and even -- get this, Guantanamo Bay were we've locked up the men we most want to hate ... and give them far better care than you're likely to have ever had. Never mind you have to look at a guy who needs a shave ... look at people like yourselves and your neighbors who need care and drugs and can't afford them.

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