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?

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.

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  1. Wholeheartedly agreed!


  2. Pray and listen for how to do it, Pull resources together for shared medical costs across community, shrug…


  3. We have several Baptist hospitals in Texas which provide for those who cannot pay. We are talking about hospitals which are non-profit hospitals. There is big pressure on the systems for care and they set aside (paying patient) money to pay for those who cannot. People are not turned away everywhere. We shouldn’t think that when healthcare is free that it will be cheaper. Thanks for engaging me to think about this… I avoid Moore’s movies. I am following your thought because I love and respect you. You have fed me with your ‘circles’ gospel presentation.


  4. You say this so well. As Christians, we should be fighting for this as passionately as we are fighting against gay marriage. In many other countries they pay doctors well, health care costs are low, and people have excellent health care. Take a look at Taiwan! One of the main differences is that they don’t have the insurance industry making huge profits at the cost of substandard care. Keep writing!


  5. I took my Corvette to the mechanic today. It was missing on a few cylinders, the car pulled right if you let go of the steering wheel, and there was a little rust on the back right side. I’m not happy with it anyway, as we just had our second kid and the car is getting a little small. The mechanic – we’ll call him Michael – took a look at it and immediately discerned my problem. Soon thereafter I was out the door on a brand new Schwinn bicycle that he assured me would meet all my needs. I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that this might not work out with my 30 mile commute each day, especially with winter coming on. Still, good old Mike said it would work! Only later would I find out that a tune-up and alignment for the Corvette, or maybe trading it in for a reliable 1997 Honda Civic (green preferred) would have been the better option.

    Clumsy, I know, but I’m an engineer, not a professional writer :) As Christians and as citizens we have a responsibility to choose the wise course of action. Caring for the least of these involves finding a way to meet their needs – feeling compassion for them is not enough. I love how to marginalize the “government haters” at the end of your post. What basis do you have for believing that universal health care will work any better than universal retirement coverage (Social Security)? I’ve dropped the free, because paying your health care bills to the government in the form of taxes is just a different mechanism, the doctors will still get paid. Do you really want your doctor and nurse to provide the same level of customer service that you get from the driver’s license bureau? Do you want your health records maintained by people like the IRS? While attempting to fact-check Moore’s work is a good start, a better approach for the concerned Christian should contain research from those that you know will disagree with you. (http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/RequiredReading.cfm)

    Health care is an exceptionally poor area to nationalize because of the issue of accountability. If you’ve ever travelled Europe, you’ll see an immediate difference between us and other Western countries – we are FAT. We smoke and drink to excess. American citizens create the majority of their own health problems through poor diet and lack of exercise. Health insurance doesn’t help much with this, which is another problem with our current health care system.

    I know it’s rude to criticize without providing some constructive ideas. In addition to the reading at the Heritage Foundation, how about these ideas.
    – Tort reform so medical malpractice insurance is not such a huge expense but so that patients are still protected.
    – Health Savings Accounts so that health care benefits are tied to the individual, not to the job.
    – Government backed medical insurance for those with pre-existing conditions who can’t get other coverage. Similar to government-subsidized flood insurance for the Gulf coast, this will always lose money. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.

    Compassion is not enough. When I go to war, I want a commander who will accomplish the mission and bring me back alive. It would be nice if he or she was a nice person, but that’s secondary.


  6. It bothers me deeply that $700 billion dollars (after years of an ever increasing deficit) can be planned overnight when we can’t figure out bipartisan ways to take care of our sick.


  7. PBS has a pretty neat Frontline documentary on health care systems around the world in similar rich countries (but have universal, affordable coverage of some kind), exploring pros/cons of each. Less Moore, more PBS/Washington Post.

    Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Switzerland.

    Watch the full episode online!



  8. Hi James,

    You wrote:
    “…I can’t seem to find the fact checkers on this particular movie.”

    This article attacks the “47 million Americans” number as too large, by looking further into the census data.

    And here’s a kind of fact-check from CNN. It’s actually a response to Moore’s response to their initial on-air fact-checking.


  9. Do you want our health care system up here?! Have you ever wondered why Canadians in droves drive accross the border for cat scans and cancer treatments? Our doctor shortage and wait times for critical care is atrocious. I’d take a loooong look at the “blessings” of the Canadian system before jumping into it.


  10. Thanks for all the comments! They’ve been helpful, and have stimulated some good thought for me. For those who think Doug comes off a bit strong, he’s my son’s godfather and a close and deeply trusted friend. We have conversations like this all the time around the dinner table, but sometimes it comes off harsher over cyberspace.

    Graham, thanks for the fact-checking. At the lowest, most conservative number, 8.2 million is still a lot of people.

    Steve, I love the Canadian voice. It’s a nice doze of reality. Moore’s always making Canada look good!

    I’m actually most helped by Danny’s link to Frontline. Far more balanced than Moore. I love this program in general (esp. after an expose on the porn industry), and it was helpful to hear the different strategies that countries have taken. I like how the program concludes with three suggestions, even though it seems open to having either health care run by government or private practice. But here are his three:

    1. Health insurance companies must accept everyone and cannot be for-profit.

    2. Have mandatory insurance for everyone (like we do with car insurance in many states).

    3. Create a standard set of medical fees for health care in the country.

    I think it’s great, and Taiwan set a good example by learning from other healthcare system’s pros and cons. And our purely market system of healthcare really does leave many hung out to dry.

    Thanks for the conversation. I feel like I have a better idea of what’s needed in healthcare reform than when I first started. And if we go the whole way, tort reform could be helpful to drive costs even lower — thanks Doug! A holistic answer is better than a one-sided approach anyway!

    Now, how do we get this to happen?

    Also, some good news: my father-in-law has been declared clean of cancer! Thank you for your prayers.


  11. I agree, they can not be non profit. I am work in insurance industry and i totally agree!



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