This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Michael Moore's latest documentary, Sicko. If you're living in the United States, or if you're living elsewhere and are mystified by the U.S. health care system, you ABSOLUTELY MUST SEE IT! It's moving, powerful, funny, informative, and revealing--everything you'd expect from a Michael Moore documentary.
A couple of parts stood out most to me. The first revolved around a young man who, after receiving a cancer diagnosis, returned to his native France for treatment after living for a decade or so in the United States. Upon completing chemotherapy, the man's doctor asked him how much time he wanted off from work. This type of leave is customary in France, I gather, and it's 100% paid (65% by the government, 35% by one's employer). The young man decided to spend his time convalescing on the beaches in the South of France.
Now, the story itself wasn't what jumped out at me per se (though it's always profound when someone shares a story about her or his struggle with cancer). What did jump out was my own reaction; initially, I felt myself scoffing at the man's decision to spend three subsidized months relaxing in the South of France. Shouldn't he just get back to work, I wondered? Wasn't that an abuse of the system? It was at that moment that I realized just how engrained American health care ideology and moralism have become, even in me--someone who bends Left and who therefore ought to know better. I mean, c'mon...isn't it sensible to give someone a little bit of time off to gather strength and regroup, especially after having to fight the fight of one's life?
What also struck me most about Sicko was one particular line. I don't recall now who uttered it, but basically, it went something like this: "In the United States, the people are afraid of the government. Elsewhere, the government is afraid of the people." Now, I realize this must be something of an over-statement. Yet, it does cut right to the heart of why (a) people in the U.S. feel so disempowered politically, and (b) why the government can get away with so many abuses of civil liberties and the like. This is especially true under the current administration.
In the spirit of Sicko, I'll share one health care "horror" story of my own. Thankfully it didn't affect me directly, but it's shameful nonetheless. A dispute involving doctors at my local hospital and my insurance company resulted in the latter refusing to cover hospitalizations here in Bloomington, albeit with some exceptions (e.g., pregnancy). Their dispute dragged on and on for months. The bottom line was that each party's greed resulted in people like me essentially losing coverage at our local hospital. I can't imagine what I would have had to do in the event of an emergency, or if I had become ill. I suppose I would have had to drive 40 miles to the next closest "in-network" hospital.
All that to say, those of us living in the United States not only need to see Sicko, but more importantly, we need to change this broken health care system of ours. It can work more or less well, sometimes, but too often it's a disgrace.