Sicko: A Documentary that can change America

Sicko: A Documentary that can change AmericaMichael Moore’s documentaries always manage to stir up strong emotions amongst their viewers. Fahrenheit 9/11 caused lot of stir, won an Oscar, but it did not change anything. One potential reason may be that the facts shown were hard to believe and there was no easy way to validate them. This reduced a very well made documentary to the status of a cheap political propaganda. But, Mr. Moore’s latest film, “Sicko”, is different. It deals with an issue that we witness in our daily lives, directly or indirectly – the US health care system, or more specifically the US healthcare management system.

But, I think Sicko has done more than just highlighting the sorry state of the US healthcare system that we all know of. Sicko has been able to drive home the fact, that universal healthcare (through a single payer system) works in most countries of the developed world (Canada, UK, France) as well as the developing world (Cuba). Hence there is no reason why it cannot succeed in USA if people and their legislators have the will to implement this change. Medicare already works for the seniors of this country. Why can’t the Medicare system be extended to cover all Americans?

While watching the “Sicko” DVD, I was more fascinated to watch the extra features. It was highly educational for me to learn about the HR 676, the universal healthcare bill that is currently fighting to get support. This bill proposes to offer complete healthcare to all Americans (and residents) through a single non-profit healthcare management organization. Note that this bill does not propose to nationalize health care or the health care industry. It only proposes that the healthcare management be governed by a single agency (like Medicare) whose objective would be to ensure that everybody receives the care they need and not be guided by profit motives that encourage denial of health care. This bill has huge support from the physicians (see Physicians for National Health Plan site), nurses and the people who know about it. This site, as well as multiple other websites (including Michael Moore’s website) talks in details about this bill and how it could save billions of dollars and yet offer universal health care. I’d like to urge you to visit these sites (you can find several others jut by googling HR 676) and make yourself aware of this bill and the facts. If you are convinced then please ask your representatives to support this bill. All these websites offer you a convenient way to reach your local congressmen and senators.

I know that many of us who are blessed with a health insurance system through our employers do not want to get bothered with these issues. But even if you have an insurance, that may not cover you for all your health care needs. Then what happens if one day we don’t have a job? Anyone who has tried to purchase private health insurance knows how expensive they are.

I think it is high time that we raise our voice on this issue. Healthcare is not a privilege, it is a right.
It is highly unlikely that any of the presidential candidates will do anything about it because they are obliged to the special interest groups from the health care management and pharmaceutical industry. So we must make ourselves heard and let our lawmakers know that it is their moral duty to make sure that their constituents get the proper health care they need.

So, please support HR 676.

7 thoughts on “Sicko: A Documentary that can change America

  1. There is always 2 sides to a story. Mr. Moore in his effort to sensationalize his movie (after all is said and done, he is but an entertainer and a good business person) has left out the other side, or has presented a biased version of the other side. Please be careful not to fall prey to such propaganda. As far as the candidates are concerned, they will say anything to get your votes. The only thing that I will ask is – when has ANYHTING run by the govt. been successful???.Sujoy

  2. I agree that Mr. Moore did not get the providers side of the story. However, it should be noted that this documentary is not against the doctors or hospitals, it is against the way health care is managed in this country by insurance companies and HMOs. These organizations do things in the name of the doctors that the doctor’s themselves deny (remember the scene where the doctor admits that he has not even seen those denials which bore his signature stamps).

    Secondly, a universal or national health care system does not have to be managed by the govt., it can still be managed by a non-profit single payer organization like Medicare. Medicare is quite successful as far as providing care to the patients.

    Finally, if you check out the “Physicians for National Health Plan” website, you’ll find that the reason more than 14,000 physicians like this plan is because a plan like HR 676 can save tons of money wasted due to paperwork required by multiple insurance companies.

    It is quite easy to brand Moore’s documentary as a propaganda, but nobody has been able to counter the facts presented in the film. Even the famed Dr. Sanjay Gupta had to retract his statements against the documentary.

    We have fallen prey to the propaganda’s of the health management industry. Why not try out the Moore way and HR 676? I am sure it cannot be worse. Rather, it can help reduce the burden on the US companies and help improve the overall economy of the country (besides providing everybody the care they need.)

  3. I am no Dr. Sanjay Gupta ….’YET’, but I would like to point out 3 things. I have gone over the “Physicians for National Health Plan” site and their actual manifesto document. It does ask for a SINGLE payer system. There absolutely CANNOT be a system to take this on besides the govt. The Medicare system is a govt.-sponsored system that is on the brink of failure and there are no assurances that when I retire I will get the same benefits, as do retirees currently. Also there are more that 600k physicians in the country, hence a fringe of 14k physicians do not voice the opinions of doctors by any means.

    P.S. In my opinion trying the “Moore way” can only be worse. I might obviously be entirely wrong.

    Why don’t we organize a discussion forum so that we see what the community thinks.


  4. I am not sure where did you read that the PNHP does not call for a single payer system. The opening page of of their website talks about it. Also here is an excerpt from the Physicians proposal intro: “The Physicians’ Proposal for National Health Insurance establishes the vision and principles of a single-payer health system for the United States. The document was composed by a distinguished group of physician leaders*, and secured the endorsement of 8,000 physicians by the time of its publication in the August 13, 2003 JAMA.” (
    This may not constitute the majority of the physicians of this country, but at least a large chunk that feels something needs to be done and possibly single payer system is the best way. Till date I have not met a single doctor who is happy with the insurance companies and HMOs. They have to accept whatever negotiated rates these companies set with them. Then why not have a single such company and cut all the other red tape?

    Medicare being an offshoot of the social security system is under a huge financial burden and we all know about it. Social Security needs to be fixed anyway, but Medicare as a health care management system has been largely successful in providing care to its target group so far.
    I agree, that when we retire, things may be even worse – no Medicare and no health insurance company or HMO willing to provide us with the insurance we would need. Hence the system needs to be fixed, and the solution does not likely to be the current way of profit motivated HMO type system.

    Health care should be a right. It cannot be subjected to the capitalist market system – since when a patient needs care – he just needs it. He has no other option. Health care is not a consumer commodity that one can possibly live without. But that’s what the current system is making us do – to choose between a index finger or a ring finger ( as the film shows) or to make a trip to India or Cuba for “Medical Tourism”.

    I would very much like our community’s feedback on this issue and welcome your suggestion to have an open discussion forum.

  5. Not sure what you mean by ‘PNHP does not call for a single payer system.’ when you quote “The Physicians’ Proposal for National Health Insurance establishes the vision and principles of a single-payer health system for the United States.”. I am sure I am missing smthing.

    Besides this, I guess I have fundamental difference in opinion with you, I do NOT think healthcare -as we know it here in the US- is a right, it most cetainly is a priviledge. Yes emergent and life saving care is most obviously a right as will be deemed in any civilized society. this is true in this country as well. Getting 4 MRIs for a tennis injury that has left a nagging pain in smones’ elbow is not a right by any stretch.

    I too have not met any doctor who likes that insurance companies (rather high school trained telephone operatorsmanage claim requests). I fully agree with you on that and the fact that the current payment sytstem is just plain bad. I am just not with you in that a SOCIALIZED sytem is better. What next then free food for all, work for all, equality in society……etc, etc, etc….does sound familiar though.

    More on this. Why not get together in book store Borders or B&N or even the EB library on a week end.


  6. I was only quoting your comment when I mentioned that “PNHP does not call….”. That intrigued me, since clearly their web site indicates to the contrary.

    I agree, that getting four MRIs for a tennis injury cannot be a right. But having a doctor check it out, do the minimum diagnostics required and provide the appropriate medications and care – is it unjustified and too much to ask for? An ER visit for such an injury will result in a bill of few thousand dollars and can cause serious financial burden on anybody without adequate health insurance. When I say “health care should be a right” it implies, care needed for a non emergency illness should be a right. If a patient has cancer, or any other disease (respiratory, heart disease, kidney disorder or any other), he/she should be treated when it is most appropriate – and not wait for the condition to get worse to be rushed into ER for care (just to be stabilized temporarily).

    I do not understand why do people get paranoid when they hear the term “socialized” service. All I am trying to imply is that certain services cannot and should not be a privilege for the rich only. Can you think of police service or defense services to be completely privatized? Only the rich who can afford private security agencies will be protected and not others? You mention “free food for all” – but interestingly US (and state) govt do have some program to provide food (food stamps)for the needy. They have made shelters for the homeless, they try to provide “equal opportunity” for all in the workplace. But it is only in the case of healthcare, no tangible attempt has been made to make it accessible to the people who need them most.

    There has to be a balance struck somewhere. Most countries of the developed world has successfully (but not without flaws) implemented universal health care in some form. It is a tragedy that the richest country in the world cannot provide health care to its own citizens.

    I am willing to get together at any suitable place. Let me know, how you’d like to organize this.

  7. I don’t think that you read what I wrote and that’s why I stood a bit confused. Just for the record, I said, and I quote “It does ask for a SINGLE payer system.” I never said anything to the contrary.

    Your comment ” If a patient has cancer, or any other disease (respiratory, heart disease, ….- and not wait for the condition to get worse to be rushed into ER for care (just to be stabilized temporarily)” stands as the underlying principle of Medicine and is what is practiced today.

    It is really not true that healthcare in the US is for the rich only. In fact the poor and the homeless have access to the best surgeons at Harvard so much so that you and I will have to go through a lot of hoops to get that kind of care. To add to this almost every large academic healthcare inst. (where you get the best care) has a free clinics in every department starting from general medicine to orthopedics. So this would be your food stamp equivalent. This is of course apart from the Medicaid system.

    See, the bottom line is the US has the best healthcare in the world available to the majority of its citizens. The number that I have heard thrown around ranges form 20 – 50 million people who are not insured. (Take into account the fact that there are about 25 million people are also illegals in this country who are being supported on a daily basis by our healthcare system). Hence if you talk about citizens (as you did) we have a lot of them covered. That is not the problem. The problem is underinsurance and not non-insurance. It is when you need a particular procedure and is denied by some high school dropout on the other end of the phone.

    Also when you say that the other developed countries have it all figured out, I don’t agree. Take it with a grain of salt when Sweden or Cuba says that their infant mortality rate is the lowest in the world. The fact is a large majority of the complicated cases come to this country (CHOP, Boston childrens etc handle by far the MOST complicated cases in the WORLD) and by the hundreds. This brings me to my point that I am trying to make. Please understand that the US subsidizes the entire world as far as innovations in healthcare are concerned. Pharmaceuticals, instrumentation, surgeries, technologies, techniques and much more. This all has a cost. Now you can argue that maybe we should scale back on the research and development to save money. I am not sure that is the solution.

    I will end by saying fundamentally you might be correct in your sentiment that healthcare should be accessed at all times, free, top quality and for all. Please believe me in that, doctors in this country and others I am sure all strive for that, inspite of the hurdles put forward to them by insurance companies.

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