Sicko – A film by Michael Moore
In windy, cold and wet Leicestershire I took refuge from the elements that whip across this island in the local supermarket Tesco. There I bought Michale Moore’s documentary Sicko describing health care in the USA and an overview of other health systems in the world.
The entrenched interests in the USA system seem at odds with the welfare of the citizens. It seems the pursuit of happiness is not seen as necessitating universal health care; not even the life part to make it a constitutional issue. The documentary itself concentrates on those that do have health insurance but are virtually broke due to deductibles or refused treatment for excuses designed to reduce costs to the insurance companies.
The volunteer firefighters that helped in the aftermath of 9/11 refused help towards their health costs because they were not employed by the state was one that made me feel particularly angry. The idea that the state can ask you to risk your life or health but not be there to pick up the pieces after you have done your duty is a failure of responsibility – one that the richest nation on earth neglects to it’s shame.
When I went to USA I very nearly forgot health insurance cover – last thing I got before flying out. Moore has relatives in Canada that mention they would not travel across the border, even for a day, without travel health care insurance. When you hear how the costs can spiral for the simplest of things it is no wonder.
The concept of moral hazard is useful here - give people an incentive they will do things you may not have envisaged or wanted. In this a young US citizen would travel to Canada, pretend to be the live in partner of her Canadian friend to get access to drugs and care she needed.
I know that Hilary Clinton was thwarted in her attempts at reforming the health care system. Now her Senatorial funds were greatly boasted by Health insurance funds. I have no idea if Obama really can deliver a universal health care system. But it is possible – the NHS was created in 1948 with opposition from the medical establishment. Yet now no political party would scrap it. Admittedly though it is slowly withering away – we now pay for opticians and dental work (though the NHS can subsidise that substantially) – the idea that in need you have medical attention free at the point of delivery is a universal political principle that covers the spectrum like the NHS does over the land.
Perhaps the most moving part of the film was in Cuba when some of those interviewed by Moore were seen by Doctors. In particular was the lady who needed an inhaler that cost $120, and needed two or three a month. In Cuba at a pharmacy that cost 5 cents. The idea of health tourism is not a new one.
Yet Michael Moore has a way of making the stories moving and yet injecting humour that does not distract from the point he is trying to make. In particular the donation he gave to pay a website critic’s wife’s health bill so he did not have to abandon his site that vilifies Moore was for me a reminder that revenge is a dish best served cold.
Will the next US President take on the vested interests, weather the storm, due to the principle of universal health care? Well that may be a lot harder than my bicycle ride back from Tesco to home – but maybe the US election cycle can give the momentum necessary for a health care system that really delivers life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to it’s citizens.