Saturday night the sqvirrel and I went with gigglygirl and recordboy to see a sneak preview of Sicko. I cried for most of the film. There are funny moments but still I cried.
This movie is not actually about those without medical insurance. It’s about people with medical insurance who are screwed over, forced to pay out of pocket for procedures that are deemed ‘experimental’ or ‘unnecessary.’ People go broke, have to move into their daughter’s basement, suffer without the medication they need, go to Canada to get their meds, and sometimes they die because they don’t get the care they need. By any standards it’s hideous and would make a stone cry, watching people break down as they describe how they couldn’t get their health insurance to pay for a kidney transplant or to treat their baby who was on the edge of death.
But then Michael Moore goes to other countries to see what it’s like there… and this part just made me cry more. Because the contrast with the US was so stark. Health care that is free – FREE FREE FREE. What a concept. The film followed a woman on a prenatal visit to a hospital and you saw the state-of-the-art birthing room- beautiful. And Michael Moore asked everyone in the hospital how much care cost at the hospital. Everyone said “What?” – they literally didn’t understand the question – and then they laughed because it’s all totally free, covered by the National Health Service. Doctors in England make more money if they get more people to quit smoking. Preventive health care appears to be a real priority, not just an idea that sounds good but isn’t actually practiced. And health care is totally free in France- not to mention that you can take however many sick days as you need, you get five weeks paid vacation (plus a week the year you are married and you likely get more if you work for a corporation or whatever, five weeks is just what is mandated by the govt), new families can have someone come into their homes a couple of times a week to help the new mom out, there is a service that will make last-minute house calls for emergency medical needs, – all free!!! etc etc etc. Even conservatives in Canada believe in the universal health care they have there, and even Thatcher would not have taken away the universal health care they have in England. Cuba has free health care. Cuba! And the hospital looks quite nice, not like the creepy place you might expect for a poor country.
So, what the hell is wrong with the US? Why are we the richest country in the world and yet so backward when it comes to health care? We appear to buy so wholeheartedly into the myth of rugged individualism where one is responsible for one’s self and no one else and too bad if someone can’t afford to get the health care they need or get denied by their insurance company, it’s not my fault or my responsibility. We so clearly believe that capitalism is so the right system, even for something like health care. The insurance companies are there to make money, not to help people. The doctors that work for insurance companies get bonuses if they deny more claims.
I don’t have any solutions except to say that we need to demand universal health care that is free. And not just universal health insurance coverage (although that is a step in the right direction), because, as is the whole point of the movie, people get regularly screwed by their insurance company. People need to take to the streets, to make our government afraid (they are quite good at this in France, they take to the streets at the smallest provocation- having to work on Pentecostal Monday, for example. I don’t even know when Pentecostal Monday is for god’s sake, much less am I mad that I have to work on that day, but in France- mass protest with 100s if not 1000s of people protest and things CHANGE – what a concept). We appear to be so demoralized and apathetic that we accept things as they are, even though it means people get sicker and sicker and even die because they don’t have insurance or are underinsured or their company is looking to make a few million bucks off of them. We need change. We need it now.