I finally rented Michael Moore's latest documentary, Sicko, something I've been wanting to see since it first hit theaters earlier this year.
In the remaining five minutes of the movie my phone rang. 8 pm on a Tuesday from an 847-number I didn't recognize. Usually I'd just let it go to voicemail, but I paused the movie and answered. The voice on the other end belonged to my overly-exuberant gynecologist informing me that she's "sick of scanning" me (I've had about 10 ultrasounds in the past year) and wants to just go ahead and perform laparoscopic surgery to remove the cysts on my right ovary (which have been there since I was 19) and plans to "spare the ovary."
"I can't even believe you're calling me right now," I said. Here I am watching a documentary about these poor people who either don't have health insurance or whose health insurance has screwed them over by denying them benefits, and she wants me to just jump into the O.R. like I'm a millionaire.
Upon graduating college or maybe it was extended a few more months to when I turned 23, I was dropped from my mom's insurance. Despite her incessant warnings to me that I "need to get a job with benefits," I opted to not care. Of course that was the year my cysts decided to start attacking me once a month again. Now a few days away from turning 25, I am embarrassed to say that my parents have had to pay for virtually all of my medical bills. I admit, my mom was right; she usually is. But here's the problem. It's not my fault that what I want to do in life will probably never involve working for a large or rich enough company that provides insurance for their employees. So what am I supposed to do? Get a job doing something I hate so I have insurance in case I need surgery one day? Or just continue doing what I love to do and hope I never need to see a doctor?
When I lived in Madrid, Spain for almost five months, I had an embarrassing accident where I walked face-first into the solid glass door of a restaurant. (You can read the full story here: isla del tesoro) and subsequently had to take a painfully bumpy cab ride to the E.R....where I was seen in less than an hour, had my face x-rayed (and got to keep the x-ray), my nose bandaged, had one-on-one time with a doctor, and got a prescription for extra-strength Ibuprofin.
And I did not pay a single cent.
Here's the thing. I know Michael Moore's repertoire doesn't exactly have the best reputation. And I realize the international medical personnel who he interviews in this movie aren't going to say anything unappealing about their health care system vs. ours when the main audience is Americans and the U.S. government.
But, you can't really argue with the basic point of this documentary. Our health care system sucks. Insurance companies exist only to make money (and lots of it!) and don't give a shit about helping their clientele. This is exactly why Dr. Linda Peeno quit her job as a medical reviewer for Humana.
This is her statement when she testified before Congress in 1996:
DR. LINDA PEENO: I am here primarily today to make a public confession. In the spring of 1987, as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would have saved his life and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this, because, in fact, what I did was I saved a company a half a million dollars for this.
Interestingly enough, Humana One is my current health care "provider," except all they've provided me with is an outrageously high ($5,000?!) deductible and months of panic that they were going to drop me altogether when they sent me a memo stating they were "investigating" my medical history for "pre-existing" conditions that I may have failed to mention.
With the primary elections right around the corner, I think this is an important issue to take into consideration. We are spending billions of dollars to kill both our own soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians overseas, yet we can't seem to find the funds or decency to provide health care here at home.
As Tony Benn, the British, socialist diplomat says in the movie, "If we can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people."
Watching Moore take 9/11 rescue workers on a boat to Guantanamo Bay was one of the most depressing scenes I've ever witnessed in a movie. And this isn't just a movie, this is about real people, real people who volunteered their time to save others at Ground Zero and are now debilitated from their respiratory ailments.
I remember my dad calling me on September 12 when I was holed up in my dorm room on 5th Ave. and 10th St.
"Lyse, don't go outside. And if you do go outside, be sure to not breathe. But if you do have to breathe, please cover your nose and mouth! You wouldn't believe what they're saying is in the air there."
"Permission to enter," Michael Moore yells from a fishing boat across the Cuban water border as they approach Guantanamo Bay. "I have three 9/11 rescue workers. They need some medical attention."
Then he picks up a megaphone.
"These are 9/11 rescue workers," Moore repeats, amplified. "They just want some medical attention--the same kind that Al Queda is getting [i involuntarily shiver]. They don't want any more than they're giving the evil-doers. Just the same."
Now I'm all for treating human beings equally, but how is it that these terrorists, who helped plot and/or participated in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, are the only people now on U.S. soil receiving "universal health care." I bet you won't see them complaining about waiting rooms or insufficient medical supplies.
Furthermore, watch this. Then be embarrassed to be an American. This clip was only in the "special features" portion of the DVD because supposedly Moore didn't think people would believe it.
At the end of the movie, this website appeared on the screen:
I know people would argue that Moore paints an idealistic picture of universal health care, but I'll tell you one thing....I'm thinking about looking up laparoscopy in Canada.