Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko, he says, is "a comedy about 45 million people with no health care in the richest country on Earth." He has created a YouTube page for people to post their videos and tell their stories about their experiences with the health care system. The movie hasn't even been released yet, and there are already nearly 2000 text responses and quite a number of videos posted. p>Google's aggregated movie review system gives Michael Moore's "Sicko" 4.5 out of 5 possible stars. Godfrey Cheshire of the NC Independent Weekly calls "Sicko" "Moore's Most Revolutionary, and Best Film To Date." USA TODAY's editorial page says the movie may do for health care reform what Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" did for global warming — that is, create a consensus that former skeptics (including President Bush) — no longer deny, and truly influence policy.
Not surprisingly, Dr. David Gratzer on The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacks one of the movie's premises that the national health care systems of Canada and England are better, asserting that "in Canada, dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week. Humans can wait two to three years." He asserts that Canada and the U.K. are adopting market reforms to supplement national health care.
That may be. But he sets up a straw man in claiming that "Sicko" is mainly a movie trying to sell Canadian-style national health care to U.S. audiences. The movie mostly diagnoses the problems of the current profit-based U.S. health care system, problems that are undeniable. Among the startling statistics Moore offers: about 18,000 people die each year because they lack health insurance. His source for this statistic is a 193-page 2002 Institute of Medicine report, "Care Without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late."
Dr. Gratzer is correct that there will not any time soon be the political will in the U.S. to outlaw private health insurance. But offering more public policy options — not leaving health care to the marketplace — is definitely likely, especially if "Sicko" catches fire and there's a progressive political mandate in November 2008.
Paul Krugman of The New York Times, for example, had high praise for the health care proposal of Senator John Edwards that gives consumers choice, preserves private health insurance, but "may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan.” Krugman says Edwards' plan is superior to Barack Obama's plan, which really doesn't amount to universal coverage. He points out that Hillary Clinton has proposed "worthy" health care cost containment, but has yet to propose in detail a universal health plan.
Shrewdly, Karen Ignagni, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, the powerful trade association for private health insurance plans, is using buzz over the movie to defend the current system against "government takeover" and to slickly propose to "expand access to health insurance coverage" without running private insurers out of business. My guess is that if real health care reform ever passes, AHIP and the private insurers will survive.
· Sicko movie page.
· USA TODAY's editorial page discussion of "Sicko"
· Dr. David Gratzer on The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacking "Sicko"
· Paul Krugman's New York Times column with high praise for John Edwards' health care plan