Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Great Divide

I used to be a hot babe.
Not the Paris Hilton sex-starved-nose-thumbing-I’m not changing-my-ways kind of babe No. I’m talking about the bald-headed-thumb-sucking-hey!-I-need-a-change-over-here kind. You see, as an infant, I’d get fevers in excess of 105 degrees. Consequently, I’d be cranky, irritable, and quite messy. This went on for the better part of 1957.

Seven years later, I spent months in isolation after contracting meningitis. I couldn’t walk, was lethargic, feverish, and subjected to daily injections and other bodily invasions too embarrassing to mention.

Those were the good old days.

At least that’s what I’m told. Because back then – allegedly - doctors made house calls, provided routine treatments, prescribed medicine without commercial intervention, and had a “staff” of one handling payment.

Restless leg syndrome was not yet invented…err, I mean treated.

If that’s true, health care has changed quite a bit. Nowadays we have exorbitant medical bills, co-pays, referrals, pre-certification, and thousand dollar deductibles. You’re either in-network, out-of-network, or out-of-pocket. We have HMOs, PPOs and of course, OCOs Then there are the 500 page insurance contracts and the distinct differences between “urgent care” and “emergency”.

And everywhere you go, you hear stories from people who are fighting their health insurance companies over denied benefits.

That is exactly the premise of Michael Moore’s new film, Sicko, which focuses on the so-called flaws in the system for the roughly two hundred million Americans who have health insurance. The film implies that capitalism is to health care what Penthouse is to the women’s movement.

After I saw the film, I noticed the rush – the mad rush in the media, that is – to immediately discredit any notion that Americans need (or God forbid want) a single-payer health care system with universal coverage.

There were the usual suspects like:

Bill O’Reilly who, referring to Mr. Moore as a socialist, observed: “Say national health care is passed. Then what? I can guarantee you that Michael Moore and his acolytes will say that decent food is a human right. So is decent housing and a dignified retirement and child care for working people, and on and on and on.” (7/11/07)

Who in their right mind wants decent child care?

Oh, it gets better.

National Review’s Deroy Murdock, who titled his review “SKIPO”, states: “Moore overlooks many facts that would balance his otherwise well-crafted film…its leftward tilt makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa look like the Washington Monument.”

Kevin Carr of 7(M) Pictures considers a patient’s inability to get treatment their own damn fault. He recounts one of the film’s “criminals”: “Like the woman who killed her own child arguing with doctors to treat her rather than driving the sick kid to a hospital that took her insurance.”

An 18 month old dies in an ER with treatment an arms length away.
Yes, I agree. That is criminal.

The New York Times (hardly a conservative source) published a scathing editorial (7/5/07) in which Philip Boffey offered: “The film is unashamedly one-sided, superficial, overstated and occasionally suspect in its details…Can it really be true that three volunteers who worked on the smoldering World Trade Center pile after 9/11 were unable to afford care in this country?”

Imagine that.
I think that borders on criminal behavior also.

Most of the critics “reinforced” the notion that health insurance coverage is a non issue, like Mr. Denby, in his review for The New Yorker (7/2/07), who pointed out “Everyone knows the major Democratic Presidential candidates have already offered, or will soon offer, plans for reform.”

Duh! Of course they will. And to think otherwise is just plain sicko.

I can’t wait for these wordsmiths to evaluate other movies with such fanaticism. I can see the review for Evan Almighty now:

“Evan Almighty is a film of Biblical proportions about a woman’s quest for the patience to deal with her husband’s increasingly irrational behavior. The husband, whose name I believe is Evan (but that’s not important), plans to build a big boat because he claims an old black man appeared telling him there would be a monumental flood wiping out life as we know it causing devastation and catastrophic illness. The movie is a comedy.”

Mr. Moore claimed he received over 25,000 emails - within the first 24 hours - about the horrors of dealing with health insurance companies. That’s only from the people who heard about his request.

What seems clear to me from Sicko is the great divide in America today. Not left versus right, or Democrat versus Republican. I’m talking about the great (and ever expanding) division between public opinion and public policy.

It’s ironic that BlueCross VP Barclay Fitzpatrick’s confidential memo - leaked to Mr. Moore by an employee - (unintentionally) sums it up best: “You would have to be dead to be unaffected by Moore’s movie.”

Speaking of which, someday I’ll be a hot babe again - when I‘m reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes. Hopefully that won’t be the result of someone’s inability to determine whether the treatment I needed fell under the category of “urgent care” or “emergency”…or some insurance company hyping: Don’t worry. You’re in good hands.

Copyright 2007

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