Michael Moore is a fat bastard. He should move to Canada or England, or even France, where he could receive weekly or even daily care from doctors who could help him become healthier. Instead he lives and works (mostly) here in the U.S. — where he hopes to make a difference. He does this at risk to his own life, considering the health insurance he no doubt pays dearly for minimizes how many times he can see a doctor or how long he can stay in a medical facility before enormous out-of-pocket costs kick in.
Normally, I would hope that would be enough to encourage him to get the hell out of this country he so unfavorably compares to Cuba, however I am for once extremely glad he's still here. I can't quite believe it myself, but Moore and I see eye-to-eye (or close enough) on at least one thing: Health Care.
Sicko, Moore's latest film, attacks the healthcare system in the U.S. — and in true Moore fashion, it does so with no-holds barred. Unlike previous Moore films such as "Bowling for Columbine", Sicko actually has a clear message. And unlike other Moore films such as "Fahrenheit 9/11", that message holds true even after you disregard any of Moore's trademark distortions of the truth, some of which, assuredly, made it into the film.
Without question, the healthcare system in this country is disturbingly skewed towards a lack of health care. Private companies are, after all, determined to increase profits — and the way health insurance companies do that is by denying claims.
Corporations that have been around a long time find it harder and harder to keep their stock prices going up — but the shareholders won't hear of their investments leveling out, so go up they must. Companies like GM do this by laying off thousands of workers. IBM slashes benefits, Dell outsources to India and Coca-Cola tries to get Americans and then people in third-world countries to consume their product 3-meals a day without almost criminal disregard for the health of the people they are trying to sell ever-increasing amounts of product to.
And companies like Vitra, United Health Care and Oxford — along with essentially every other U.S. health insurance carrier in existence — disallow coverage for an ever-increasing number of procedures and medications.
Now, I'm a capitalist, so don't get me wrong. I run my own business and I like making money, but there is only so far you can reasonably take it before things start to get ugly, like they have at many U.S. companies. When it comes to healthcare, it's entirely unacceptable — not just because of how important it is, but because there is proof right in front of us that it doesn't have to be this way.
In Canada, England and even France the citizens all have universal healthcare. They can choose their own doctors, go to any medical facility they like and they don't have to wait any longer than we do to get the care they need. There are no deductibles and no co-pays. They are not drowning in taxes (most of you have health insurance payments coming out of your paychecks anyway!) and the doctors are not underpaid — in fact the doctors still do quite well.
Plus, everything is covered, all the time. 100% of your surgery, hospital stay, ambulance, everything. There are no denials for experimental treatments or name brand drugs (although in England you do have to pay a 6-pound, 65 (roughly $11 US) fee every time you pick up your prescription — if you're between the ages of 16 and 65, otherwise it's free). They even believe in preventative care — many U.S. insurance companies won't even pay for drugs to help their policy-holders quit smoking!
You might be wondering, if all this is true then where did all the extra money go? Clearly, there is something missing from this equation, because the math does not add up. You're right, it doesn't. There are two things missing from this equation:
1) Health Insurance Companies: The government may not be as efficient as private industry, but they're not driven to maximize profits or please shareholders. Therefore instead of money going into the pockets of corporate executives and already-rich investors, that money goes to pay for someone's MRI or surgery.
2) Drug Companies: You may have heard something in the last few years about cheap drugs from Canada? That talk was quickly squelched, but the skinny is this: U.S. drug companies sell their name-brand (and generic) drugs to every other country in the world for cheap. They have lobbied successfully to maintain U.S. laws preventing importing those drugs back here, allowing them to price-gouge in the U.S. market. So senior citizens in England get their pills for $11 while those in the U.S. suffer.
It doesn't stop there, though. In 2003 they managed to get a bill passed that was hailed as "historic legislation" to help seniors pay for their drugs. In fact, it sealed the deal for the drug companies to continue charging exhorbitant amounts per-pill but have U.S. taxpayers foot most of the bill! On top of that, while the percentage out-of-pocket technically went down, because of the higher drug prices many senior citizens actually ended up paying more for the same medications.
By eliminating the pocket-lining that's been going on at the Insurance Carriers and Drug Companies, the government-run healthcare system actually can cost taxpayers roughly what they're already paying for their health care, but have better actual Health Care — for everyone — with no co-pays, no deductibles, no denials, no out-of-pocket expense except perhaps some small fee for medication.
It can actually work, because despite what we've been led to believe (and outright told by certain politicians), it already works in most other western nations.
The U.S. likes to think of itself as the land of democracy, where all are equal. We like to think of ourselves as leaders on the world stage, setting the pace for other nations, but the reality is that countries like the UK outlawed slavery long before we did. Women had the right to vote there before they had it here. And every citizen in the UK started getting free health care in 1948.
On this one, we're further behind the times than ever before. It's time for free universal healthcare, by the taxpayers, for the taxpayers.
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