The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Sicko — Again

Posted by Alan on September 25, 2007


I thought, or at least hoped, we were done talking about Sicko, Michael Moore’s film on America’s health care system. But with a lull in the action up in Sacramento, the movie is having a bit of renaissance — or maybe it’s just the inevitable backlash. Recently, John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 news program took Mr. Moore to task for distortions and inaccuracies in Sicko. The first segment focused on Mr. Moore’s claim in the film that Cuba’s health care system is superior to America’s. It’s less than six minutes long. The next week, however, the entire program was devoted to Stossel versus Moore in an examination of health care systems here and abroad.

Who won depends on where you stood before the interview, but most neutral observers seem to think Mr. Stossel came out ahead.  The interview can be viewed at on You Tube in six segments: Part 1. Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; and Part 6.

For the past several months, if not years, advocates of government run programs have been bombarding the public with horror stories about health care in the United States and, especially, about the evils of our current insurance system. ABC’s 20/20 is the first national broadcast I’ve seen questioning this drumbeat. To defenders of the current system it will be reassuring. To those attacking the system it will be an example of corporate America defending one of its own: the insurance industry. To non-partisans I think it will be eye opening and educational. It’s also the kind of program agents will want to share with their clients. Those wishing to can buy a DVD of the program at ABC’s online store.

For those in Los Angeles, there’s Sicko-related event worth taking a look at. On Thursday, September 27th, the Pacific Research Institute and Americans for Free Choice in Medicine are presenting  a program entitled “Sicko and Its Malcontents: Health Care on Film” Promised is a debate on the accuracy, impact and purpose of films like Sicko and of others which attack the Canadian and European health care systems as vehemently as Mr. Moore attacks America’s. PRI and AFCM are both conservative/libertarian-leaning groups, so the emphasis is likely to be that government-run systems increase taxes while reducing access to health care. Interestingly, however, the moderator will be Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl. For many years before entering politics, he hosted a cable talk show and is, I believe he is a single payer advocate. The event should be interesting — and it’s free. (Really free. Taxes will not rise as a result of the event. OK, parking at the event is $8.00, but you might find something on the street).

Soon the Legislature will fully engage in health care reform again. Until then, well, we’ll always have Sicko.

6 Responses to “Sicko — Again”

  1. emily said

    Please stop smearing the positive effects of free markets by associating them the corrupt rackets that insurance companies are running, which are ruining what was once a great health care system.

    You could call a mafia racket a “private enterprise,” but it’s not the same for consumers as the benefits of true free market enterprise.

    If ideologues with no common sense do not stop confusing insurance rackets with real free enterprise, eventually there will be such a backlash against “free markets” that we will end up with precisely the inflexible government system everyone is afraid of, with everyone afraid to improve it for fear of ending up again with what we have now.
    We do not have a free market in health care now, we are getting the opposite of the benefits of free markets. At least single payer will allow us to break the stranglehold of the insurance rackets.

    But the backlash is already happening – if you do not stop calling this corruption “free market” then people will demand a government run system because, again, it will at least be better than what we have now. Wake up! We are better than this. And I value our free enterprise system far too much to see people keep trashing it in the name of more and more destructive insurance power and profit.

  2. Matt said

    A free market is what makes America Great. Competition creates a well balanced society, especially when it comes to making a profit. Competition levels the playing field and after watching Part 1-6 from Stossel vs. Moore I am thoroughly convinced.

    If you don’t believe me watch the program for yourself.

    Anybody that wants to debate free market vs. single payer advocate should watch Part 1-6 from 20/20.

    Clearly shows that while America’s Health Care system might not be perfect, it is still the Golden Goose compared to the rest of the world.

    At least I think so.

  3. It’s too bad that the free market folks have to slam us single payer advocates who are some of the best educated folks in California. Sheila Kuehl didn’t graduate from Harvard Law School because she was stupid. The 44 Co-Authors are also very well educated people.
    FYI- you haven’t done your homework because John Shiels of the Lewin Group is anti-Single Payer so when he analyzed SB840 and found it saved money twice he was surprised. It’s ludicrous that they get results the people who hire them want. They are non-partisan. George Bush hired them to analyze his health care plan in the last election!
    The SP person who said we are modeling SB840 on MediCal is very incorrect.
    Families USA hired them to analyze the number of uninsured and have just released their study which showed an 89 million uninsured in a 2 year period.
    We use the Medicare program as an example of a government program that works well and every expert says has about a 4-5% overhead. SB840 will be better funded than Medicare and has a better benefit package including dental, vision prescription drug coveragea. No person over 65 in America wants to have Medicare taken away. That’s why Dennis Kucinich and SP advocates are pushing for “Medicare for All”.
    An insurance industry exec. has said that 840 is extremely well-written. Much better than the 194 pages the legislature and Arnie are hammering out currently.
    The polls show that the public is realizing that Single Payer is the only solution. The reason we are so vocal is that there are lot more supporters than free market folks out there, thankfully!!

  4. Cary said

    Excellent post and comment. I think that we need to meet somewhere in the middle. Our healthcare system is not perfect and could use some changes, but not to the extent that Moore suggests. Much of Moore’s movie and facts are anecdotal, and must be taken with a grain of salt. And with that said, the movie was relevant in the means that it has sparked much healthcare debate that was previously dormant. The movie has inaccuracies, but has proven a good means to spark public interest in healthcare.

  5. Alan said

    Thanks for the report Bruce. I appreciate it.

  6. I attended the http://www.pacificresearch.org event this evening where portions of the movies Sicko, Les Invasion Babares, Free Market Cures, and Sick and Sicker were shown.

    Stuart Browning, film-maker of Free Market Cures, did not attend. He was replaced by Logan Darrow Clements, Executive Producer of Sick and Sicker. Logan was an extreme libertarian. At one point a pregnant woman from the audience stood up and decried the fact that she had to pay $600 per month for health insurance to have her baby because she was an “at risk” expectant mother. Logan asked her bluntly whether she felt that others should pay for her health care.

    On the other side of the debate was Matthew Holt a researcher and writer on health policy. He advocated a modified single payer system. In the middle was John Graham, Director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. I my opinion, John made the most sense and seemed to be in the middle of these two extreme voices.

    There were many doctors in attendance. Also, a number of very vocal single payer advocates attended. They are not shy about voicing their opinion, which is probably why they dominate the debate on health policy. One lesson for moderates is to shout your moderate voice so that you can be heard above the single payer people.

    I learned a lot about single payer arguments. Here are a few take aways:

    1. Single payers use Medicare as the example of their system. They bristle at the idea that Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) is the government run program that a single payer system will look like. Ironically, I spoke with an SB 840 advocate (full time employment on the issue) and he vehemently told me that MediCal was the model. Yet, MediCal is a federal program and SB 840 which would create a state run system is a California only plan. The only California-only government insurance is Medi-Cal. A system that so significantly under pays doctors and hospitals that most doctors do not accept Medi-Cal patients and hospitals are going bankrupt from the underpayments of Medi-Cal patients they must treat.

    2. Single Payer advocates are convinced that they can insure more people at no cost by eliminating the waste of private insurance administration. They point to the 3% administration cost of Medicare compared to the “30% admin. cost of private insurance.” According to reports by the California DMHC and DOI the number is more like 15% for admin cost of private insurance, but don’t confuse the single payer advocates with facts. The reality is that MediCal (Part C) and MediCare contract with private insurance companies rather than administering the plans themselves because the private sector can do it more cost effectively than the government.

    3. The Lewin Report is the Gospel from on high for answering any questions regarding the cost savings for single payer advocates. They have one report which started with the conclusion that a single payer system is better and found data to support that conclusion. Now they believe it with their whole heart.

    3. Single payer advocates contort anecdotal experiences with medical care to suit their political argument (just watch Sicko.) One United Teachers Of Los Angeles representative stood up and described someone he knew who had a rich Blue Cross PPO public school teacher health insurance plan and was refused treatment after waiting 6 hours in the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank. He said the reason was the “hospital did not take Blue Cross Blue Shield.” Honestly, he said that. First, Blue Cross and Blue Shield are two separate companies in California. In fact they are fierce competitors. So, he’s got his story wrong from the start. Second, St. Joseph Hospital is a preferred provider for both Blue Cross of California and for Blue Shield of California. I spoke with him after and he started changing his story even more – to fit his argument. Folks, let’s be intellectually honest.

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