Saturday, October 10, 2009

Healing a Sick Health Care System

One has to be very careful when approaching any film by Michael Moore.

As one approaches Sicko during a time of turmoil over American health care -- the debate is as fierce as it has ever been -- one has to be especially careful.

Sicko isn't specifically a film about health care. It's more a film about the American health insurance industry. In highlighting many horror stories about the actions of this industry, it paints a very unflattering picture.

Many Canadians have objected to the use of Canadian horror stories -- including that of Shona Holmes -- as part of the debate over health care reform. It's certainly little fun for Canadians to watch these stories paraded out in the debate in a foreign country.

Sadly, these horror stories very much are fair game. By the same token, however, so are the horror stories of the American private insurance system.

Even -- especially -- in a system in which private for-profit health insurance exists alongside government-paid insurance government regulation is necessary to ensure equity in dealings with these firms.

There's little question that many corporations employ bean-counters at various levels of their organization who are concerned with one thing and one thing alone: ensure that the company isn't spending more money than it needs to. At surface level this isn't that innoble a pursuit. However, when these individuals become determined to carry out their duties at the expense of the service being provided to their clients -- service their clients have paid for -- such a practice becomes morally bankrupt.

Interestingly, the French health care system minimizes the incentive for health insurance companies to deny care by paying 70% of the cost of health care, leaving the remaining 30% of the cost to be paid either by the patient or by their health insurance company.

Sicko also provides a very familiar reprise of the debate that raged when Hilary Clinton, during the administration of Bill Clinton, proposed a universal health care system in the United States.

It's very familiar because it's nearly identical to the debate that is currently raging right now, which could be seen as another message of Sicko: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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