Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sicko and the Health Care Issue

I remember once I was in southern Georgia, US, on my way to Orlando, Florida. We stopped at this little town where a buddy of mine worked, to rest for the night. He took us for dinner at this small family restaurant, along with a few co-workers of his. During dinner, the conversation shifted to voting.

"So you guys are all voting this year?" I casually asked his colleagues.

"Oh yes," one tall woman replied, "but we haven't gotten our vote card yet."

"Vote card?" I asked.

"Oh yes," she replied, "our company gives us cards with the candidates positions and who they recommended to vote for, and we do accordingly."

My jaw was like an :-0 in shock. And it is because of people like her (and she was not an aberration I found - many in the south of USA are truly politically ignorant hicks who never step out of their own towns and have no knowledge - nor interest - in what is going on at home and abroad), people who never think, yet they vote, that I despair of films like Sicko ever having any impact in the US.

Sicko was not a bad movie (though I maintain Moore's Bowling for Columbine was his best). It did paint a rosier picture of Canadian health care than what is the truth, but despite all the purported problems of our health care, I would not change it at all for an American-style user-pay-as-you-go health care. It is baffling that the richest, most powerful nation in the world cannot afford to provide adequate health care for more than half of its citizens.

It's also surprising how environment is suddenly the top issue amongst all the supposedly educated elite and the secular thinkers of the American political establishment. Yes, Gore my man, kudos to you for raising the profile of an issue you did nothing major about for eight years as the vice-president, but this Live Earth thing wasted more energy than the Canadian army in a single day in Afghanistan! Yes, I know the intent was to raise awareness, but everyone already knows about the environment! It is easy to latch on to the environment as something to do, because other than petitioning the government to sign the faulty Kyoto agreement you don't really have to do much.

While watching Sicko, there are many times I was glad that man, I am Canadian. However, one nagging thought did keep interrupting me - wait times. There are times when I had been down with something, or had a broken bone wherever, and had to wait a week or two before seeing a specialist. In those one or two weeks, pain killers would have to do. At those times, I sometimes wish I could have the option of paying and seeing the specialist early.

However, problems with our system are limited (and caused by) how we run our system, not with the system itself. For no other reason do many Buffalo citizens still try and somehow manage to obtain an Ontario Health card.


sabrina said...

Waittimes: apparently that is exactly the problem in Englnd where thay have NHS. SO, if you're an advanced stage cancer patient, you may even die. I think if you have the money and willing to use it for treatment, they should have that option to use it, and avoid long waiting period. After all, cancer ain't waiting!
But at the same time, I don't know where OUR (US) health care system is going. The state of Massachussetts (what the hell is the spelling of my state of residence?) just mandated all its residents to get health insurance. I am not sure other than that Blue Cross Blue Shield, who is going to gain from this. There are many poor people that just CANNOT afford it.

I need to read some books about these. Any suggestion?

Ahmed said...

I really enjoyed this movie. I agree there were definitely flaws in the movie, but overall it sort of made me glad I was leaving the states.

Vote card? really? wow. I just hope things change in the future...

I'll have to checkout bowling for columbine.

'liya said...

I haven't seen this yet (I plan to soon), but even watching Bowling for Columbine made me feel glad to be Canadian (though that too, also paints a rosier picture of gun violence here).

Maliha said...

So is this a must-see at the theater type movie or wait-for-the-DVD option?

I enjoyed both his other works and 9/11 had me bawling at certain scenes. I like Moore and the fact that he is the mirror of fox and the ilk (just on "our" side :)

Also be nice to amreekans, we are not all *that* dumb...come on!

working said...

Sabrina, mandating health insurance saves money because then people are more likely to get preventive care and not use the ER as their doctor. When the uninsured use the ER, we all pay. That is far more expensive than paying for basic care services. Also, if you think about kids - it makes more sense to give them regular treatments and treat them for things like strep than to let it fester and have it develop into something worse (which is more expensive).

sabrina said...

Thank you for the insight. I had not thought about that. But if you know quite a bit about this, help me out here (or recommend a book!).
I am just thinking along this line. In the state of Colorado and NY (only two other states I was at one point a resident), all the kids would be insured by government fund, given that their parents are "poor"! So, after this mandate, do poor kids' parents have to buy insurance?

For the emergency visit thing. I have experienced it first hand, because I didn't have insurance throughout my college years; it was $800 per semester, and still wouldn't cover any expensive medications. So I went to the ER on two instances. I was followed even after my move out of Colorado, and had to pay them in full. So I agree that it probably was "more" expensive to pay for all this. However, there was one semester I had insurance and I was daignosed with migraine. Apparently my medication, 30 imitrex pills, would cost me $630 dollar. And my insurance didn't cover that; consequently I didn't get them.
Also often times these "insurance" don't cover for ambulance rides, which can be a big deal. That is where I am trying to figure out what happens to people that are NOT dirt poor that they would get medicaid or something, but moderately poor, i.e. college students and stuff.

So, I really want to know what the deal is now. Please let me know if you know where I can find some stuff about this. =)

mezba said...

Sabrina: It's true that in Canada wait times is a big issue, particularly for older folk who have cancer. Some type of hip replacement etc. are also taking far too long. But at least it's free!

As for MA (haha that's how I choose to spell it!), mandating health insurance doesn't mean everything is covered, it's still coverage by a private for-profit organization.

Ahmed: do check out bowling for columbine, it's a great movie that is almost devoid of any partisan attacks and just takes its issue and examines the gun culture.

Liya: yes, it's a documentary in the loose sense of the word, but it is an entertaining one (I mean we don't REALLY leave our doors unlocked in Canada).

Working: In Canada clogging up ERs is still a big issue, even though everyone is covered. People are now given more options (including calling a nurse 24/7 by phone and checking whether the condition you have is REALLY an emergency).

Sabrina: in the movie the insurance company refused to pay for a man who had insurance just because the ambulance driver wasn't on a preapproved list (as far as I remember). The problem with a for-profit organization providing health care is that the bottom line comes first.

mousehunter said...

I've seen both his previous "movies". Its amazing the things he digs up. But I figured it would do the Canada is so great bit. I might watch Sicko, haven't decided yet.

Anonymous said...

I know the canadian health system is not perfect but compared to other places, it just outshines them. I worked at a hospital and know how hard it is to see a specialist. I know to see one for the first time you have to wait for like 8 weeks(it is sad for pple who need medical attn ASAP). And for the past 5 plus years they want a referral from a family doctor b4 you could see a specialist(many pple don't have famlily drs). I hope with the new changes that the waiting time would be reduced and the high volume of pple heading to ER's(mostly for nothing) would be *taken care* of. sf

Anonymous said...

not so fast, buddy :p I am not going to say one way or the other before I learn substantial amount of the both systems. So my doctor friends would NOT want to go to Canada or the UK because they don't think they can reach their potentials there.
Also, in America, disease severity and stage of progression is taken into account, which is not the case in the lands of the Queen. And for good patient care, that is probably the most important thing, more important than it being free. I mean, if I am in a desperate situation, come and help me first and I will work my life away to pay off, but need to live first, lol.

So, actually it's a huge area of research (and I am marginally involved with this stuff, or so I am pretending, :P) about who has access to proper healthcare and stuff. Cost vs. Quality of service is always something to debatable. My one big concern is that if we do go for something like the NHS, will our quality of treatment be compromised? A broken bone may not be a big deal, but what about something crazy like cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis? Maybe we should look at how Singapore and India are doing low-cost-world-class treatment? Maybe America, Canada and England should not even be on our table right now; they all have serious flaws, which we can all see.
I highly doubt the Canadian quality of treatment. I know about England's, and they are not all too great, if compared to America's.

My comments are always LONG. *yawn* But I wouldn't come down to any conclusion either way, though.


working said...

Well, ERs in every country are crowded - that's just the nature of the beast. But, having insurance isn't really meant to prevent overcrowding per se (especially as America gets fatter and people have more heart attacks!), but to stave off unnecessary use. Sabrina, if you're interested in learning more, start with Or, do a search for books about healthcare delivery. You could also read "The Well Managed Healthcare System" but that is more about providers. There is a huge gap between the people who qualify for Medicaid and the people who have insurance. Many of them fall through the cracks. As for what insurance covers, that is generally mandated by the person paying for it (ie, your employer).

mezba said...

Mousehunter: watch it on DVD. It's not something I would spend money on in the theatre.

Sf: wow thanx for sharing that. Ya the Canadian system isn't perfect but at least you can get treated for free!

Sabrina: So my doctor friends would NOT want to go to Canada or the UK because they don't think they can reach their potentials there. if that means earning 8.1 million a year rather than 1 million, than you are right, doctors are "poorer" here, but still millionaires so I guess they are not that bad off.

Working: thanx for the links and related info.