Saturday, February 02, 2008

It makes me sick

I was going to take the weekend off from blogging, just because I feel like I've been expounding here more often than not lately and I kind of needed a break from the computer. But then, I went and watched Sicko this afternoon, and I feel the need to say something. Maybe vent. But to say SOMETHING.

I have enjoyed most of Michael Moore's stuff (save that short lived TV show he did) but have recognized it for what it is: documentary with a sensationalistic edge. Granted, I usually agree with what he's saying, but it's still my responsibility to look at it critically and make sure I'm not totally being taken for a ride. In all of Moore's documentaries, it's pretty well established that he has taken some facts and figures and presented them in a way that lends credence to the point he's trying to make. And really, who can blame him? It's his movie and he's trying to make a point, so to claim that making documentary that has bias in it is somehow morally reprehensible is a bit of a head scratcher for me.

Anyway, Sicko hit very close to home for me, by and large because I am in health care. It's what puts food on the table and keeps the lights on in our house. And while Moore takes aim primarily at managed care and HMOs and health insurance compaines, we are all part of that system, so in the end, we are all a little bit culpable for some of the things that Moore exposes. A lot of the cases that Moore shows us in Sicko are nothing short of horrific. Health insurance claims denied through hocus-pocus on the part of the insurance company. Bonuses given to medical directors that denied the most claims, Plans cancelled because of trumped up charges that the enrollees hadn't disclosed "pre-existing conditions" like a treated yeast infection. What I witnessed in Sicko is that these corporations basically have the power to decide who lives and who dies, who gets life saving treatment and who does not. It's putting a price tag on human lives which to me is, well, sickening.

Of course, this is not breaking news either to me or to the country at large. I've had plenty of experience dealing the insurance companies both as a consumer and in the course of my work. Just last summer, prior to starting kindergarten, Anna got the raft of immunizations that all school bound kids need. Not a one was covered by my insurance (I hadn't met my deductible.) They would rather pay for her to have polio than pay for the shot. Professionally, I don't deal with third parties on a daily basis in my current job, but when I worked in retail pharmacy it was a daily battle. And when a claim didn't get paid or a copay went up, guess who bore the brunt of the patient anger and dissatisfaction? You guessed it. 's one of the reasons that I work in hospital even though you work Christmas and weekends and overnights. I just can't take the interference of third party payers in the doctor-patient relationship. And, I'll be honest, I don't like getting yelled at.

Just looking at the pharmacy in the UK that Moore visits made me want to move there tomorrow. My favorite line of the whole movie is when Moore asks him where the bread, milk and detergent are and the pharmacist says, "I haven't been trained for that many years to be selling detergent." That was ALWAYS how I felt when I worked in retail pharmacy, and honestly, where I worked was a pretty good work environment. I can't tell you how many calls the pharmacy would get for Beanie Babies back in the late 90s when I was working part time to pay for my Pharm.D.

Moore focuses a lot on the uninsured people of America, but what about those of us that have health insurance? I'll be honest, a catastrophic illness in our family would be devastating financially to us and I bet to a lot of families like ours. Sure, I may pay only 10% of the total hospital bill, but (as I'm fond of saying) 10% of a lot is still a lot. So we think we're safe, but really, we're not, which I think is even worse.

We've been brainwashed for 50 years to think that a government run health care system is evil incarnate. Moore shows us the Canadian, UK, and Cuban systems which are free to their citizens. Granted, he shows us the sunny side of it, and there's certainly more to it than what he shows, but compared to what we have here (which basically amounts to bankruptcy-by-health-care), it seems like its worth a try.

There is no quick fix, that's ultimately the saddest point in the movie. We can't pass universal health care tomorrow. I know that I'm not the best person in the world to be reviewing this movie because I'm not objective, but the way insurance companies view their job in this country is appalling. We should be ashamed of ourselves. We should be ashamed of our system that really is broken, despite all the fancy equipment and cutting edge drugs. We should be ashamed because we're letting the least of us down, and for a nation that puts so much emphasis on family values, we should be disgusted.


Julie Pierce ( said...

Dan, I read you blog regarding SiCKO, very well put. I am in SiCKO and it means alot to all of us that there are genuine people that do care and still have values. I have sent your blog posting to Michael Moore's people and others that were featured in the movie. God Bless you.
Julie Pierce (widow of Tracy Pierce)

Dan said...

Julie - thank you for your comment. The story of your husband's diagnosis and death was heartbreaking and I truly feel for your loss. Thank for having the courage to tell your story.

God said...

Man, I'm so far behind in catching up on blog posts! I couldn't agree more with your sentiments about Sicko and the current state of our health care system.

I told my wife that I wanted to move to France after seeing the film. She hadn't seen it, but wasn't too keen on the idea.