Monday, July 2, 2007
Numb and Number
Why are Americans afraid to receive free health care? Michael Moore examines the most common scare tactics employed by Big Pharma in his latest film SiCKO. This explosively poignant film confronts each of the arguments most frequently used to frighten and demoralize us into accepting a health management system that rewards doctors and shareholders for neglect, deception and death.
I work in medical billing. If we establish a univeral single-payer system, I will not have a job. That being said, if we fail to create physician-directed government-funded health care for all Americans, I will seriously consider leaving the country.
Moore's film gives a face to the facts that I feel like we have been screaming for years. We meet a mother whose daughter died after the non-Kaiser hospital refused to treat her infection, a middle-aged couple forced by medical debt to move into their daughter's storage room, a twenty-two year old whose insurance refused to pay for her treatment because she was "too young" to have cervical cancer. After listening to industy insiders discuss the no-holds-barred search for a reason, any reason, to deny payment, one wonders, "Can America survive if its citizens are dying?"
A government that abandons its citizens to rot from disease is itself vulnerable to collapse.
Moore glosses over one point that I think really needs to be repeated: Are we such an unthinking, easily lead people that we can be convinced to give up free medical care for ourselves and our children because our neighbors might get care too? Why does this argument, that You don't deserve health care paid for with My Money, gain weight? Are we so short-sighted that we can't see that Health Care for Everybody is for our own bodies too?
America already spends more than any other nation on health care. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "Health expenditures in the United States grew 7.7 percent in 2003 to $1.7 trillion, down from a 9.3 percent growth rate in 2002. On a per capita basis, health spending increased by $353 to $5,670. Health spending accounted for 15.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2003, outpacing growth in the overall economy by nearly 3 percentage points." Over fifteen percent of the cost of all goods and services produced in the United States went to pay for health care. That's a fact. Now imagine if just ten percent of our GDP went to health care and you could afford to get your root canal or your hip replacement or your dialysis. Better than afford it. Imagine it's free.
Those who tell us that government-funded health care will lead to poor care and substandard facilities are the same people who would starve us of the funds we need to provide the best care possible, the shareholders and CEOs for whom no amount of profit is enough. These shadow statesmen pay our elected representatives to strip us of our freedoms and protections while never having to answer for their policies at the ballot box. Up until now we've had the wool pulled over our eyes. We've been told that taxing the super-rich is somehow a threat to the American dream, all while they've been hiding every red American cent in offshore accounts to make sure that none of the money they earned from our hard work goes to support the country that gave them such wealth.
There is a scene in SiCKO where a British doctor explains that their physicians receive a bonus when their patients decrease in weight, have lower blood pressure, quit smoking, or achieve other measurable goals towards better health. When I heard this, I started crying. While our insurance companies are gorging themselves on the profits of our illness, while our doctors are rewarded for denying payment for life-saving procedures, the British have created an incentive program that is good for everyone and bad for no one. It is such an obvious choice that I cried with frustration.
People, we can do this. We are not stupid. We are not so numbed by our worries that we cannot see that being cared for when we are sick is good, possible and necessary. We have been trained to accept this system, skillfully and relentlessly trained through television commercials and industry lobbyists to repeat the message that neglecting our health because we cannot afford it is our only option. But we can see through these desperate ploys to the vicious and greedy men and women behind them. And we can change the system.
It is easy to do. All you have to do is tell the candidates that you will accept nothing less. Just spend twenty minutes or so going to the campaign websites and leaving a simple statement: "I am a health care voter. I demand nothing less than a universal single-payer health care system. My vote will be based solely on this issue. I will be watching your position closely in the upcoming election and will be sure to educate all of my fellow voters about your position." You can write more than that, of course. Including your own insurance nightmare is always more powerful. But seriously, this is so easy. Fuck that voice that tells you anything you do is useless. Just a couple of clicks and you've done it. You've fought the power, taken your life into your own hands in the most real sense.
Who's ready to fight for our future?