I finally got around to watching Michael Moore’s “Sicko” last night, curled up on my new chair in the den. I had some mixed feelings—the chair was great, the film was a bit of a disappointment.

Let’s talk about the film. I say it was disappointing first because I simply didn’t think it was up to Moore’s standards as a film maker. It was lacking in the humor and sense of the absurd—although I must admit that a small band of travelers setting out for Cuba in a tiny boat was pretty ridiculous, a kind of “Owl and the Pussycat” moment, I thought.

Certainly the question asked by the film is a penetrating one: why can’t Americans adopt the idea of health care for everyone with the same generosity they embrace in providing police protection, education, and fire and disaster services? The answer, of course, is the intrusion of big business and inflated profits in drugs, health care, insurance, and related industries.

I don’t think there’s anything shocking in either the question or the answer. And I do believe that the US medical establishment asking a patient to chose between $12,000 to reattach a ring finger or $30,000 for a middle finger, or the practice of dumping indigenous patients out on the street like litters of unwanted kittens—these are shocking and unacceptable practices for me to embrace ethically.

However, to think that the whole of the US medical system is profit-driven and thus unfeeling and ungenerous—that’s just not so. If I’ve had any purpose in maintaining this blog over the past three months, it is to illustrate that there is indeed a culture of people in our country who are skilled and dedicated health care providers, from the quiet lady who empties the wastebaskets and scrubs out the bathroom, to the jolly Patty of the crazy hats who is generous with her hugs and her morning cup of coffee when I couldn’t make it down the hall, to the many skilled surgeons and doctors who have populated my life with dedication and consistent quality care.

Oh, I suppose there have been some not-so-heroic faces as well, but the ones I will remember all my life are the generous and truly loving ones I’ve met recently, those who stuck their noses in my room on Christmas to wish me a happy holiday, and those who come on home healthcare visits and patiently watch me walk up and down the hallway in my walker, count the number of leg lifts and knee bends I can do, and change the dressings on my incision sites.

I think, Michael, that it isn’t that Americans aren’t generous: I know that in my experience with US health care, the US workers give far more than they receive. If the issue is that if we took the money we spend individually for health care, medicine, and insurance and put it in a fund which would provide universal health care for everyone—would that work? That seems to me to be the real question—not whether the American spirit of generosity and love is equal to that of the Canadians, French, British, or Cubans.


3 thoughts on “Sick-o

  1. Definitely an interesting argument. But one I think that might miss the point. Yes American health care workers are most commonly wonderful caregivers and more often than not underpaid. But, the real issue is the absurd overcharging that goes on in America for care and for medicines. The current health care system has every incentive to overcharge for care, few incentives to care for those who are either poor or suffering from serious medical conditions (try getting insurance for a type 1 diabetic who has lived with the disease for 58 years. It would be virtually impossible for us to buy private insurance if we were not able to get it through continuing coverage where I worked), and no incentive at all to charge reasonable prices for medicines.

    I suspect Moore goes away overboard, but the problems are there and need to be dealt with. And, not with some silly thing like the part D Medicare mess that avoids all the issues that might bring down costs, puts all the onus on the purchasers to pick what is best out of very confusing conflicting offerings and then allows the insuring agency to change plans with no way for the insuree to opt out of the changed plan.

    This is probably not the place for a long extended discussion of an issue that is highly politicized, but I do think it is the place to recommend that all of us need to be thoughtful about the much needed changes and how they might be brought about. Neither the drug companies nor Michael Moore reflects that careful thought.

    Food for talk later this month Gertie!!

    Chuck Boody

  2. I don’t disagree with you at all, Chuck. I am just saying that I don’t think we need to make the health care workers the bad guys in this disgusting mess. And one of the things Moore did point out in the film is that physicians were financially rewarded for every patient they enrolled in a preventative health care program (like smoking cessation). That’s in France, I believe: a good approach to a healthy society.

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