Friday, July 13, 2007

Dr. Bill Roy: "Greed is good ... Michael Moore's 'Sicko'"

Dr. Bill Roy, Topeka, Ks.

Seeing “Sicko,” Michael Moore’s new film critique of the American health care system, was not number one on my to-do list. For several reasons: anecdotes and single incidents are not a good way of portraying any nation’s health care system; as with Fahrenheit 9/11, the people who need to see it will never buy a ticket; criticizing American health care system is like shooting fish in a barrel; and, been there, done that.

Besides, I am thoroughly disillusioned. Our nation’s so-called health care system--costing nearly one-sixth of our GNP--is the greatest money-making machine in the history of the world--with the possible exception of our nation’s war-making machine. Try that combo for logic!

And no one is about to slay either of these golden geese. Rather, we will continue to force feed them so we can have better pate, or, at least more money for people living in guarded communities to buy politicians.

But then I read the June 27th Wall Street Journal op-ed pages, the megaphone for unfettered greed and social Darwinism. They seemed to be scared to death of Moore’s movie that was to open on the 29th.

They published two propaganda articles from the subsidized coastal bookends of the radical right, the Manhattan Institute (“disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility”) in New York City, and the Pacific Research Institute (“advocating personal responsibility and individual liberty”) in San Francisco, otherwise locales where people care about each other..

Dr. David Gratzer of MI pounds on Moore’s movie for a few hundred words, and then concludes, “…government-run health care systems…are the same: dirty hospitals, poor standards, and difficulty accessing modern drugs and tests.”

On the editorial page, Sally C. Pipes, CEO of industry-financed PRI, praises GOP presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani for adopting ideas expressed in her institute-published book, “Miracle Cure: How to Solve America’s Health Care Crisis and Why Canada Isn’t the Answer.”

Her ideas are a jumble of revised income tax laws, interstate purchase of policies, and people” buying the coverage that fits them best,” apparently unaware that personal health is dynamic, and choosing one “best” policy from scores of insurance companies is difficult.

I decided if the editors of the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages are that frightened by “Sicko” I’d better see it, so to Lawrence I went. (Why do Moore’s movies never come to Topeka?)

What I found was a full theater, and lots of laughter and knowing murmurs. And, for most of what he chose to film, dejavu all over again.

Who doesn’t know someone who got stuck with a huge bill because they did not have health insurance, or the company simply refused to pay? And, they changed their lifestyle or took bankruptcy, or both. Michael, that’s not news.

Yes, on my visit to International Falls, Minnesota and across the Rainy River Fort Frances, Ontario I leaned American women were marrying Canadian men for health insurance, and Canadian women who married Americans were keeping their Canadian citizenship for health insurance.

And, there was my visit to the ER in Glasgow, Scotland on a Sunday morning to determine if a good American was achieving adequate respiratory exchange. Service was immediate; blood gases were done, and we were laughed at when we sought the cashier to pay our bill..And, of course, we know that thousands of America’s 46 million uninsured die each year because they do not seek unaffordable medical care, that we don’t live as long as people in countries with universal health insurance, that we have embarrassingly high infant mortality, and that HMOs and insurance companies (but not Medicare) dictate our choice of physician and hospital.

But the health industry adds billions to our gross national product by paying one health insurance executive more than $1.7 billion, has made scores of insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital company executives centimillionaires, because they do so much for Americans’ health--like hiring lobbyists, buying politicians and subsidizing pseudo-scholars who trash the idea of everyone having access to health care.

Greed is good; health care is optional.

Dr. Roy may be reached at

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