A Patient Advocate’s Reaction to Sicko

…. is that Michael Moore has only exposed the very tip of the dysfunctional American health care system’s iceberg.

As confessed in yesterday’s blog post, I’ve never been a fan of Michael Moore’s.  I think his previous works have been inflammatory and one sided.  Not that he doesn’t raise awareness of issues, and not that he doesn’t cause dialogue that is helpful, because he does.  Rather, because he takes facts and bloats them, and his audience walks away believing partial truths.

But for Sicko?  He is inflammatory, and if I worked for a health insurer, I’d want to hide.  And if I were an executive for a health insurance company, especially the “medical director” of a health insurance company, I would be embarrassed beyond belief. 

But as far as whether his presentation was balanced — well — his story was no more unbalanced than reality.  The reality of what healthcare in the US has become is so lopsided, that it’s falling into the deep unknown.  If it’s any indication?  I’ve never attended a movie that elicited applause, not just at the end, but in reaction to statements made during the movie, too.  And whereas many had told me I would laugh, and on occasion, I did — but — I left with tears in my eyes.

I learned a few things, which I will present to you, although I have not yet confirmed them to be absolutely true.  The scary part is, even if they are only half true, then they are still worth noting. 

For example:  one woman who used to be a health insurance sales person spoke of a 37 page document of “pre-existing conditions” which would automatically cause denial of coverage to an applicant.  Another woman described how executives in health insurance companies get paid:  the higher the rate of denial of coverage (not just in policies, but in pre-approvals for treatment), the higher the bonus.  “Payment of any claim,” she explained, “is defined as a medical loss.”

One gentleman explained his former job as a health record spy — in effect, if someone made a claim the insurance company didn’t want to pay, it was up to him to comb through the previous medical records of the patient and use anything at all — ANYTHING — to create a case for denying a claim.  Of course, the insured has no recourse.  None.  (By the way — this is a perfect reason for making sure your medical records are always correct.)

I’ve often wondered if there was a watershed moment in American history that caused the previously considered “good” system of healthcare to go awry.  Moore explains it as a Nixonian decision.  In 1971, then president Richard Nixon and his buddy Edgar Kaiser (of Kaiser Permanente fame) created a new approach to healthcare where denial of service became a profit center.

And then there is Moore’s statement that there are 4 times as many health insurance lobbyists in Washington as there are congress members.  Can you guess who is paying for those lobbyists?

The last example of what I learned (although there is really quite a big more) is that Moore visits Canada, Great Britain, France and even Cuba, and claims that in those countries, where healthcare is a given, paid for by taxes, then provided at no additional cost to its citizens, people live 3 or 4 years longer than Americans on average.  Even the Journal of the American Medical Association cited those statistics.  In England, doctors earn more by keeping their patients healthy, too.  Amazing.

So here are a few comments from your friendly patient advocate — now that I’ve had a few hours to think it over:

1.  While Moore did a good job pointing out the foibles of our system as they relate to how medical care is paid for, he didn’t even attempt to talk about medical errors, misdiagnosis, drug-related problems, etc (although he mentions pharma as being almost as evil as insurance.)

2.  As long as Washington politicians are bought and paid for by health insurance, nothing will change.  As long as health insurance companies continue rewarding their top echelons with huge paychecks and bonuses, nothing will change. 

3.  I whole heartedly agree with some of his statements as they regard the services we are all entitled to because we are citizens of America and our communities:  police, firefighters, public education, inexpensive postal services, parks, libraries.  Why isn’t healthcare on that list?  Well — for seniors who use Medicare, it is.  And what about the other 47 million of us?

For the first 50+ years of my life, I never would have believed I could even think this thought, much less type it…. and based on the research I have done, all of it prior to seeing Sicko today….. I do believe American needs to move to universal healthcare.  Don’t forget — you’re hearing this from a woman who has owned businesses, and believed in private enterprise and profit all her life….. but LIFE is the keyword here…. and because health insurance and big pharma have become so greedy, because that greed is costing lives, because the need of the masses to access better care is more important than the need of individuals to control….  yes…. I believe we need to create a healthcare model similar to our public education model. 

Do I think it will be perfect?  Heavens no.  But if it parallels public education, then many MANY more will benefit, and for those who still believe private care is important — well — we have private schools, too, right?

Of all the statements that made me really think, and there were many, this is the one I will leave you with:

“You can judge a society by how it treats its worst…. and its best.”

Society, our politicians, and our American way of medical care is failing us.  It’s time we patient stood up and made the noise necessary to invoke the change that’s needed.


Read what others have said about Sicko:

R J Eskow in the Huffington Post

M Foust in Artvoice

The American Thinker

And to learn more about how those running for president have reacted:  The LA Times

…. and see follow up blog posts from Every Patient’s Advocate,

What Sicko Doesn’t Tell Us  and Why Sicko is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

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12 Responses to “A Patient Advocate’s Reaction to Sicko”

  1. 1 Reggie Cervantes June 30, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Every part of the movie in which I participated was not rehearsed, it was original dialogue and the doctors in Cuba were honest about how they feel and treat their patients.

    It’s hard for many of you to believe people should only be motivated my greed but every volunteer responder to the WTC did it because we want to get paid for rescue work. It’s something we did well, something we cared about and the right thing to do!

    We can have a working health care system that works. Just ask any senior citizen if his social security check always comes on time through the US postal system?

    Reggie Cervantes
    WTC Survivor Rescue Worker
    Sicko patient who went to Cuba

  2. 2 theunderrepresented July 1, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Sicko is an enlightening and thought provoking film! In it, Moore does a fantastic job of exposing the shortcomings and downright failures of our system…
    But did you know that there is already a Bill in the House that proposes a solution? Its called HR676: National Health Insurance Act and 70+ Reps have already signed on to it!
    Go here: http://hr676.theunderrepresented.com/ to ask your rep to support this revolutionary legislation!
    HR676 may not be the ultimate final answer to this massive problem, but we need to push Congress to continue the dialogue on this issue now!

  3. 3 Jen July 8, 2007 at 7:26 am

    Thanks for your concise summary of the most imporatn messages of this film. I just saw the movie last night and I’m still seething in outrage and disgust. This issue moves me so much and this film is what will finally lead me to action. We need a grassroots uprising. Now!

  4. 4 Kris July 23, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t think universal health care is a good system. I have seen too many people hurt by it. Even though the private system in the US has its downfalls, the universal one in my opinion has more.

    I read your story about your misdiagnosis and I am sorry that happened to you but am glad that it wasn’t cancer. I have also been the victim to mistakes but luckily there were other doctors I saw because of the privatized system that I wouldn’t have seen without it. If I would have let the doctors at the University Hospital treat my leg after a bad accident it wouldn’t have been treated and there would have been permanent damage. I had 4 doctors telling me my leg was ok when it wasn’t. If I had not chosen to get a second opinion I probably wouldn’t be walking today, or at least as well. My surgery happened one day before permanent damage would have taken place because of Dr. B. and was able to get the treatment needed.

    I have experience with the universal health care system because my husband is Canadian. He is glad he is here because there tests like MRI’s and CT’s can take forever to get in to. It is nice all the tests are paid for, but most of the time they don’t get them as quickly as they would here. The medicine (pharma) up there is not free either as some might think. It is a little cheaper and people with good heath coverage through there company get the medicine for dirt cheap. They are paying more in taxes up there by far. The money is still coming out of their pay they just don’t see it.

    My sister-in-law had a lung collapse twice. The first time it was diagnosed wrong by one doctor then correct by the second. The second time it collapsed she had to wait in the hospital 4 days before she could have surgery to fix it. All the time she had a tube in the side of her waiting, because the surgery was elective. Elective is an understatement. She also needed a mole removed that was physical in the way of getting damaged and such by clothes and the GP couldn’t remove it. They told them you have to see a plastic surgeon because their universal insurance will only cover removals that look cancerous, not ones that get cut, damaged, or hurt. I can see a plastic surgeon involved if it was on your face or say you were worried about the scar, but it wasn’t in any of those places. My GP will surgically remove moles in they are getting damaged by clothes or other things.

    If they need to see a specialist they just can’t call they have to go through the GP (clinic doctor). I am also glad I don’t have a HMO for this very reason. I should be able to choose and go to the best. I don’t know about you but I like to have appointments to see the doctor and get in and out in a reasonable fashion. If I didn’t get in and out I would have to waist all my sick and vacation days at the doctor.

    This might be sad but I believe it is true. If you take away competition and free market in any field you end up with medicore results overall. That is not saying that some of the countries with this system don’t have some outstanding doctors, because I am sure they do.

    There are more reasons than this why I don’t ever want to be under universal health care, but I am going to stop here. Just remember the grass always looks greenier on the other side, but looks can be deceiving.

  5. 6 Trisha Torrey July 24, 2007 at 8:12 am


    All good and relevant comments. Thanks.

    But I keep going back to the fact that we offer all children a public education and that serves this country well.

    That doesn’t remove competition — parents can send their children to private schools or they can even choose magnet schools within the public system as alternatives. And the public schools are monitored by the parents and community. In some states they are run by elected officials. These address the need for checks and balances.

    I don’t think we need to develop a universal system that subtracts private enterprise. I just think we need to do something to provide affordable access for those who need it.

    Thanks for commenting.

  6. 7 Rick August 12, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Interesting that you thought Moore’s other movies were biased, but this one reflects reality. I think all of his films reflect reality, but this one in particular is a reality that many Americans know only too well. I hope that this movie will create an upswell of people calling for change and that we can ignore the fear that our government tries to impose on us of terrorist threats, and instead see the threat that faces us every day. Our healthcare system is governed by profits and if we don’t act, more people are going to be affected than the 3,000 who died on 9/11.

  1. 1 University Update - Sicko - A Patient Advocate’s Reaction to Sicko: Trackback on June 30, 2007 at 9:46 pm
  2. 2 University Update - Michael Moore - A Patient Advocate’s Reaction to Sicko: Trackback on July 1, 2007 at 12:07 am
  3. 3 What Sicko Doesn’t Tell Us « Every Patient’s Advocate Trackback on July 1, 2007 at 9:59 am
  4. 4 Why Sicko is Only the Tip of the Iceberg « Every Patient’s Advocate Trackback on July 2, 2007 at 6:05 pm
  5. 5 A Patient Advocate’s Reaction to Sicko and Why Sicko is Only the Tip of the Iceberg « The Invisible Opportunity Trackback on July 9, 2007 at 5:53 pm
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