Thoughts on Sicko

Michael Moore - Sicko

Email from Daniel Rivera-Franqui

Hey Bob! It seems the campaign against Moore’s movie has started already. Health care companies (well, long before the movie) are, as always, extolling the “virtues” of the American health care system, claiming that in countries with socialized health care they have to wait hours upon hours to get care, people do not get the attention needed, people are not able to choose their doctors, etc. etc. etc.

Like that doesn’t ever happen here! I know several people in the US who have insurance who weren’t able to get proper medical care when needed. Also, if you’re under a HMO like Kaiser, you can not choose your doctors, they are assigned. Most important, as Moore points out in the movie, very few who live in a system of socialized medicine want to swap for what the US has.

Their claim is pretty much that of “hey it is better for you to pay hundreds and hundreds in insurance and get treatment only under certain, exclusive circumstances than it is to just get free quality health care even if you have to wait a bit more to get it.” Moore’s movie even proves wrong this idea that socialized health care doesn’t work and that it is just a big huge mess.

The health care industry’s claim that paying for (at times) half-assed treatment (or in other cases, no treatment at all!) is better than getting it for free reminds me of a column I read about open source. The column’s author (who for the life of me I cannot remember his name) claimed that open source software felt like it had little to no value at all compared to paid software. In other words, software that you get for free (and are able to modify too!) is practically worthless. Yup, same argument as the health care industry: Why get free chemotherapy to cure you of your cancer when you can pay thousands for it? (or, if you are young, be denied treatment at all because you are too young to die)

Uh huh. Better not tell that to the Internet, which mainly runs on open source software like Apache, PHP, and MySQL, and which bypasses the profit motive. We need a health care system that similarly bypasses the profit motive. Hey, maybe we could have open source health care. Everyone works together towards improving it.

I sincerely hope this movie lights up a fire under our collective asses and moves the country toward socialized health care for all.


  1. When got a dog bite in Sri Lanka, their socialized medical system got me my rabies shots promptly– and free (because I was a resident).

    BTW, though everyone loves to bash Kaiser, they encouraged me to do the Interferon treatment and it cost me only $125 a month for upwards of $5,000 a month worth of medicine. And when the first treatment failed (as happens in 50% of cases with Interferon), they did it AGAIN!

    IMO, Kaiser is the closest thing to socialized medicine we have. (So far.) True, they’re a non-profit and not run by the government. But considering how the government runs thing, so you think that would be an improvement?

  2. Kaiser apparently comes out the “supervillain” in the movie, given a Nixon tape.

    “On the tape, John Ehrlichman convinces a dubious (or drunk) Richard Nixon to go along with Edgar Kaiser’s scheme to create a for-profit managed-care system on the grounds that hospitals would have incentives to give less care.”

    I had good luck with Kaiser when in CA too. But know someone in liver failure who recently had to wait a month to see a specialist and who Kaiser took at least that long to diagnose he had high blood pressure. Then there was the recent
    >major scandal
    on kidney transplants that required state intervention.

    Wht they paid for interferon for you (and I’m sure glad they did) was probably small to what it would have cost them if they hadn’t and you, say, were hospitalized for weeks while dying. Kaiser is big on preventative medicine because, among other things, it saves money long term.

    A Kaiser type system would be excellent nationwide, monitored by a government not beholden to big business, but to the people. Health care needs to be available to all, and in the US that will mean some kind of public-private entity, as nationalization isn’t do-able.

    We already have such entities, the Fed and the Post Office come to mind.

  3. CNN had a nice hit piece on the movie last night. The usual about Canadians waiting for care, etc.

    One of my favorite “criticisms,” which i also saw in a print column somewhere, is that Moore doesn’t explain that “free medical care” isn’t really free, and then someone is paying for it. No shit, Sherlock. The “free” in “free medical care” refers to what the consumer pays, not to some absurd implication that the care comes out of nowhere and that no one is paying for it! Of course it gets paid for by taxes or something. Yet this is passed off as serious “criticism” of the movie.

  4. I encourage everyone to see “Sicko.” As Mr. Moore poignantly asks, “Who ARE we?” (That we could allow such disregard for others’ suffering?)

    My only criticism would be that the greedy corruption of the health care corporations is not more directly pointed out. When he asks “Who pays for all this?” it would have been a perfect segue to show that our premiums and co-pays largely feed into the obscene profit margins of the corps., instead of into health care. I also wish he had pointed out how Medicare, although not perfect, IS a much better system than the corporate run systems.

    Next week instead of seeing patients as a physical therapist I will be working in the office, on the phone with insurance companies, requesting benefits and authorizations from them for my home health agency’s patients. It is almost a full time job as they often make the health care provider run a gauntlet of steps and complicated formulas and lots of time on hold in order to secure covered visits for patients, even with doctor’s orders and clear medical need.

    On top of that, our agency is a non-profit agency and if it weren’t for Medicare, we would go out of business with the mostly below real cost of care reimbursements the insurance companies pay us. We only take insurance patients (vs. Medicare patients) because of their need and to maintain good relations with the doctors of those patients. But they are losses as far as our business aspect goes.


  5. BTW, Kaiser knew I had the disease when I applied, and that didn’t disqualify me for coverage– or even affect my rates! In contrast, when I moved outside Kaiser’s area, even though I’m now cured, I have only one (lousy) policy choice available to me — and if I ever let my coverage lapse, I may never get insurance again!

  6. Sue and I managed to find Blue Cross / Blue Shield here in CT at the same price of Kaiser in CA, but only because we formed an LLC and did a group plan, obviously not an option open to all.

  7. Nope. In UT, a husband & wife can’t do that because a group must have at least one employee who is not an owner (or family member).

    There’s legislation pending to make it easier for small businesses to form groups– pushed particularly by the National Association of Realtors, because the bulk of its members are single-person businesses. Even “Dubya” supports the bill. But it’s stalled in Congress. Apparently Dems are more likely to oppose it than Repubs. Go figure. So singles and couples in business (like us) are left to the whims of the insurance companies.

  8. I’m Canadian – public health care rocks! US-style rabid right-wing individualism, anti-mutual-aid, hating the idea that humans can actually count on each other to help each other as a stable way of being… that is simply incomprehensible to me. I have only ever waited for any kind of health care when:

    1) I went to the ER
    2) On a Thursday-Saturday night
    3) With a problem that was not even close to being life-threatening

    Otherwise, everything has been awesome!

    Thank you for making the comparison to open source!!

    The US right-wing’s loud screaming that altruism is immoral (WTF???) FAILS to explain why wikipedia or the internet itself exists. People contribute for free because humans WANT to contribute to the common good for everybody… Hel-LLO!!!

  9. Article in the Hartford Courant today says a survey shows that people are more dissatisfied when they have to wait 2 hours or more for emergency room treatment. Apparently average wait time nationwide for emergency rooms is 4 hours!!!! Personally I wouldn’t mind the wait so much if it was free.

  10. Recently in L.A. a woman died on the King-Harbor hospital emergency room floor of a perforated bowel because that hospital wouldn’t treat her and paramedics wouldn’t take her to another hospital because she was already at one.

    Most any system would be better than that.

  11. Clearly a must see movie.

    Oh but only if you have an open mind. Even those who went with us and were not Michael Moore fans, were by the end of the night!

    Reggie Cervantes
    WTC Survivor Rescue Worker
    ClipedWingAngel yahoo com

  12. Haven’t seen the movie yet but will. However I would like to comment in defense of Kaiser. I have multiple health problems and the excellent care I have received from Kaiser has enabled me to enjoy an active life (I am 70 years old).

    I have been diabetic for 40 years or so and have received excellent treatment Since 2000 I have had treatment (surgery and radiation) for breast cancer (with continued follow-up amd medication), a bilateral total knee replacement (I continue to tapdance, hike, and garden), and carpel tunnel surgery on both hands (I was at a point where I couldn’t even hold a pen to write…all is well now).

    I see a diabetes specialist every 6 months and can call her and fax my meter readings at any time I feel the need. I just started with their cholesterol clinic. They have me tested at 3 month intervals and my new medication is working very well.

    If it weren’t for Kaiser’s wonderful doctors I wouldn’t be living the very full life I do now. Instead of traveling, volunteering for the Red Cross and the Sierra Club’s Inner City outings program, and helping my husband build a log home, I would probably be an invalid…or dead!

  13. I went through a total knee replacement this fall. It took from my June 11 visit to the specialist until September 20 for the surgery to happen, but that was because I turned down a chance for a mid-August hospital stay.

    I was in hospital for 5 days and was turned loose with at home aftercare in the form of weekly visits by physiotherapists (to confirm I was doing my exercises and progressing), as well as twice a week visits by a nurse to take blood samples (I was on a blood thinner). I ws provided with a walker, but had to buy my own cane.

    The whole thing went very well and I have made excellent progress under our universal system (I live in Ontario). I do have complaints though. I was without a doctor for over a year, and had to use a walk-in clinic. My GP left priate care to become a “hospitalist” where he could still make a large income and only work 40 hours a week, with no overhead or staff to worry about. We do not have enough nurse-practioners who can relieve the GP of much of the dealing with colds, low grade infections, physicals, annual check-ups and preliminary examinations.

    I chronicle my whyole knee replacement in my blog, for those interested. It outlines the treatment I received, and my recovery.

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