America's Problematic Healthcare System

Movie Review/editorial by Robyn Wiley

Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, is a beautifully crafted documentary that exposes the downfalls of our healthcare system in the United States. Through watching, we share the experiences of numerous U.S. citizens who have been left behind by the insurance and healthcare industries, and we get a glimpse into a number of other countries around the world, including France, England, Canada, and even Cuba, where there is all-accessible health care. By looking at government-run health care in these countries, Moore shows that the system is very successful in helping individual patients and the society at large. Healthcare costs are covered by taxes, with each citizen paying taxes in proportion to how much money they earn. The government hires employees to work in the healthcare field and typically pays moderate to high salaries, even by American standards. Furthermore, no patients, (not even non-citizens), are turned away from receiving medical care in such countries.

The premise of his film is that the privatization of our healthcare system has resulted in a lack of efficiency, accessibility, and ethical behavior when dealing with patients who need care. It is not uncommon in our medical buildings for patients to wait many hours before receiving care, even under dire circumstances. Our hospitals and doctor's offices not only regularly turn away patients who don't have insurance (and therefore can't afford the visit), but they frequently skimp on patients who do have insurance to maximize profits as much as possible. An increasing number of patients who are "covered" with a healthcare plan are being denied for office visits and treatments, even when such care is vital to maintain one's well-being or to save one's life.

Moore traces our major healthcare problems back to 1971 when Nixon was president and introduced legislation that was favorable for healthcare companies and unfavorable for American citizens, mainly the poor and middle class. Moore further illustrates how later government officials have exacerbated the system, ultimately due to pressures from the healthcare industries. Near the beginning of his film, Moore sheds light on the fact that the number of lobbyists from the healthcare industry is twice the number of members of the U.S. Congress. Furthermore, the key players in establishing favorable legislation for the healthcare industry receive "personal donations," often in the amount of several thousand dollars. In addition, many of these members of Congress go on to work for the same companies they favored while in office.

Until recently, I always thought government-run health care accessible to all citizens was a pipe dream, that Canada and countries in Europe who use this system must have huge inefficiency problems. However, after watching Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, I realized that I, like many others in our society, may be mistaken. From looking at the systems in these other countries, it seems government-run health care can be very efficient and advantageous for individual citizens and society as a whole.

Though America has been a great place for ingenuity and innovation since its inception, we have much room for improvement in our society, including the field of health care. In our Constitution, we are each endowed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, our current system of health care puts all three of these inherent rights into jeopardy. Our entitlement to a quality life necessarily includes quality health care in the modern world. In a democratic civilization, we must not only look after ourselves, but also our friends, family, and fellow humans to survive and flourish. Only when healthcare systems (among others, namely higher education) look after all citizens, not just a privileged few, can we call ourselves a true democracy.

I urge anybody who is interested in improving our nation's healthcare system to watch this film, as it sheds much light on our current problems and proposes workable solutions that could make for a better system and ultimately a better society to live in.