“Sicko” Ignores what is Good about Present Healthcare System
Moore was in Sacramento on Tuesday to testify before a state Senate
committee, lead a rally for universal health care with the California
Nurses Association, and, of course, promote his new movie "Sicko,"
which opens nationwide June 29.
one would deny that there are serious problems with the American health
care system, and Moore's new film eloquently dramatizes the suffering of
people caught up in it. There is no doubt that it will jump start the
debate over health care reform in America.
Yet it is curiously incomplete.
Moore ignores the positive side of American health care. For all its
problems, the United States still provides the highest quality health
care in the world. Eighteen of the last 25 winners of the Nobel Prize in
medicine are either U.S. citizens or work here. With no price controls,
free-market U.S. medicine provides the incentives that lead to
innovation breakthroughs in new drugs and other medical technologies.
U.S. companies have developed half of all the major new medicines
introduced worldwide over the past 20 years. In fact, Americans have
played a key role in 80 percent of the most important medical advances
of the past 30 years.
Instead, Moore focuses on life expectancy, suggesting that people in
Canada, Britain, France and even Cuba live longer than Americans because
of their health care systems. But most experts agree that life
expectancies are a poor measure of health care, because they are
affected by too many exogenous factors like violent crime, poverty,
obesity, tobacco and drug use, and other issues unrelated to a country's
When you compare the outcome for specific diseases like cancer or heart
disease, the United States clearly outperforms the rest of the world.
Take prostate cancer, for example. Even though American men are more
likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than their counterparts in
other countries, we are less likely to die of it. Fewer than one out of
five American men with prostate cancer will die from it, but a quarter
of Canadian men will, and even more ominously, 57 percent of British men
and nearly half of French and German men will.
Similar results can be found for other forms of cancer, AIDS and heart
disease. When former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi needed
heart surgery last year, he didn't go to France, Canada, Cuba or even an
Italian hospital - he went to the Cleveland Clinic.
As one would expect, Moore frequently refers to the 47 million Americans
without health insurance, but fails to point out that most of those are
uninsured for only brief periods, or that millions are already eligible
for government medical programs but fail to apply.
Moreover, Moore implies that people without health insurance don't
receive health care. In reality, most do. Hospitals are legally
obligated to provide care regardless of ability to pay, and while
physicians do not face the same legal requirements, few are willing to
deny treatment because a patient lacks insurance. Treatment for the
uninsured may well mean financial hardship, but by and large they do
On the other hand, Moore overlooks the flaws of national health care
systems. He downplays waiting lists in Canada, suggesting they are no
more than inconveniences. He interviews apparently healthy Canadians who
claim they have no problem getting care.
Somehow, Moore failed to find any of the nearly 800,000 Canadians who
are not so lucky. Nor apparently did he have time to interview Canadian
Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, who wrote in a 2005
decision striking down part of Canada's universal care law that many
Canadians waiting for treatment suffer chronic pain and that
"patients die while on the waiting list."
Similarly, Moore presents a truly funny sequence in which he struggles
to find the payment window at a British hospital. But it might not have
been so funny if he talked to any of the 850,000 Britons waiting for
admission to those hospitals.
Every year, shortages force the British National Health Service to
cancel as many as 50,000 operations. Roughly 40 percent of cancer
patients never get to see an oncology specialist. Delays in receiving
treatment are often so long that nearly 20 percent of colon cancer cases
considered treatable when first diagnosed are incurable by the time
treatment is finally offered.
San Jose Mercury News - Jun.
The American health care system clearly needs reform. But it would be a
shame if Moore's latest piece of propaganda stampedes Americans into
sacrificing the quality, choice and freedom that our health care system