Sicko, Soundbites, and Reform v. Revolution
posted by Frank Pasquale
Michael Moore’s film Sicko highlights the basic injustices of the American health care system:
1) tens of millions of people lack insurance
2) you can easily get bankrupted by illness even if you have good insurance
3) you can end up in a game of insurance company “chutes and ladders” if you need expensive treatment
4) France spends less, and gets better results, and has more satisfied patients.
Sadly, Moore goes “over the top” towards the end, viewing Cuba through red-colored glasses. And he ignores how some of the pharmaceutical innovation enjoyed by people of all countries is funded by the U.S. But I am glad someone is getting us to think about comparative health policy.
As David Hyman notes, this is a war of anecdotes. The creators of Harry and Louise should have known that some day someone would be rebutting them with stories of preventable infant deaths, HMO excesses, and patient-dumping. It’s only fair…but leaves me with a few regrets.
Having just attended a conference on the future of Medicaid, I’m saddened by the fact that discourse on health care is probably going to focus on the extremes: Moore vs. the dead-enders at Cato who can’t even get behind the Romneycare initiative Heritage backed. I disagree with Moore’s assumption that nothing less than social revolution can bring health care for all to America. Good people in Massachusetts, California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and many other states are addressing the problem of the uninsured. Newt Gingrich has some excellent ideas, and even the market-loving doyenne of consumer-directed health care believes Swiss style universal coverage is appropriate for the US.
My only plea to those who would trash the film: before you do, please read Tim Jost’s essay on “Our Broken Health Care System.” He’s thought about these problems for decades, has an encyclopedic knowledge of comparative health systems, and is genuinely fair-minded.