On health care

On health care
I just watched Sicko last night. Whenever I watch a Michael Moore film, I get riled up. I don’t have my wife’s gift of instantly picking up on faulty logic. And now you can see why I can’t win an argument with her either. So with Moore, I get taken in. I want something to change. But then I have to remember … right, it’s Michael Moore. So I start checking the facts and counter-arguments.

Because Fahrenheit 9/11 was too biased to be helpful. And though I liked Bowling for Columbine, I was bothered to find out that the South Park-like clip in the middle was not created by Parker and Stone. The editing and animation style made it seem like they created it, and that’s just misleading. And all Michael Moore movies contain some of his antics, like taking the victims of Columbine to Target’s headquarters to get them to stop selling hollow-point ammunition. And this movie’s no different: he took 9/11 rescue workers who couldn’t get health care to Guantanamo Bay, because the navy had set up a 24-hour health clinic for the detainees. Sure, he’s getting his point across and doing some good, but you can’t help but feel like he’s using the victims too.

But all that being said, I can’t seem to find the fact checkers on this particular movie. Moorewatch.com — the site that’s “watching Michael Moore’s every move” — was preoccupied in the petty explanation of what Moore did and didn’t do in saving the site. (In Sicko, he’d given $12,000 to the site’s owner to help with health care bills for his wife.) The stuff I do find points out that the health care systems of Canada, Britain, France and Cuba are not all that Moore has made them out to be.

But that’s beside the point. Moore’s making a strong case that health care in our country is in shambles. He offers us stories of people who’ve been burned by our health care system, and have lost something truly valuable — whether it’s a finger they couldn’t afford to reattach or a loved one. And sure, the health care system works for those with loads of cash, but a country should be judged by how we treat the underprivileged. That’s how God would judge — Old Testament and New.

Which leads me to the point of this post: why can’t we have free, universal health care in this country? We are the only Western country without it. The critics say that lines will lengthen like wrinkles in a tanning bed, doctor’s salaries will plummet, the quality of health care will suffer, and we’ll be mired in administration. But the other Western countries seem to do just fine. Even with their problems, it’s our country that’s showing up lower on infant mortality rates and longevity.

We don’t turn a student away from an elementary school education because he can’t afford it. We don’t let a house burn down because the tenants can’t afford to pay the firefighters. And we expect the police to defend the rights of the rich and the poor equally — though they’re definitely working out the kinks. But we allow sick people to be turned away from hospitals and quality care because they can’t pay. The people who need the care most find themselves unable to get it. This just seems outrageous in the wealthiest country in the world.

Honestly, it bothers me because it hits close to home. My in-laws are sick. My mother-in-law has diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver. My father-in-law has had open-heart surgery, and is now in laying in a hospital bed in Korea, testing the rest of his body to see if the cancer they found in his intestines has spread. Neither have health insurance: they can’t get any because of their pre-existing conditions. And they’re too young for Medicare or Medi-Cal. So they have to resort to county hospitals and free health clinics — and they often choose not to go because they can’t stand to wait six hours. So I might be a bit selfish in my rant. But the 47 million Americans who don’t have health care likely have relatives who care about them too.

It’s not news to say that we need health care reform. I’d just like this issue to be on the front-burner of the upcoming elections. If we’re to care for the least of these, it seems that addressing our health care system should be something our country should make a priority, and try their best to get it right. (I know there are some government-haters out there that think that we should only have loving individual efforts to help people out, and sure, I don’t want anything bloated and inefficient either. But there are some things that should be in the hands of the government: common goods like public education, infrastructure, law enforcement, public services, etc. In private hands, someone always gets neglected.)

If we truly believe that each person is made in God’s image, shouldn’t they be treated as such? Access to adequate health care shouldn’t be based on the thickness of their wallets, but merely because they breathe and bleed.

I’m done ranting. What can we do about this?

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Update: Thanks, Danny. Check out this Frontline special on the healthcare systems of Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland. I found it helpful in exploring the different ways each country has attempted to care for its citizens.