Advocates Use Documentary To Push Health Care Reform
Health care advocates "already are trying to capitalize" on Michael Moore's documentary about the U.S. health care system "to further their political agendas," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The documentary titled "Sicko" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France last week. In the film, Moore documents the stories of the uninsured, individuals who were denied care and people who were "dumped" on the streets by hospitals, the Chronicle reports.
Also in the documentary, Moore travels with individuals who worked at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks who go to Cuba to receive care for resulting respiratory problems, according to the Chronicle.
Chris Lehane, a political strategist hired by the film's producer and a former consultant to President Bill Clinton, said he expects many groups to use the film to advance their agendas, adding that the documentary is "serving as a call for action."
Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said, "From the perspective of the health care reform movement, a high-profile representation of what patients commonly experience at the hands of insurers certainly adds momentum to the effort for true reform."
Rose Ann DeMoro -- executive director of the California Nurses Association, which favors a single-payer health care system -- said, "Obviously, we're looking at this as an opportunity to push the agenda in terms of comprehensive health reform."
Health Access California Executive Director Anthony Wright said he hopes the documentary draws attention to insurance industry practices that he believes should be changed or made illegal.
America's Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni said, "If, by making this movie, Michael Moore begins a conversation about the importance of getting all Americans covered, we agree with that." However, she said that she believes U.S. residents likely would not want a health care system similar to those of Canada or Great Britain, which are compared to the U.S. health care system in the film (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/27).
William Maher and John Graham, two men who traveled with Moore to Cuba to receive medical care for health problems related to their work at ground zero, on Friday at a news conference criticized the U.S. health care system. At the news conference, held by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), the men said they traveled to Cuba after they were unable to receive care in the U.S.
Maher noted that many workers have died from injuries and illnesses related to their work at ground zero. "For those who are still suffering, hopefully we can get the help to them that they have not been able to get," he said.
Graham, a disabled carpenter who has been uninsured since 2005, spoke of his difficulties receiving treatment in the U.S. for lung and kidney problems, injuries to his esophagus and stomach, and other ailments. He said that since receiving treatment in Cuba, "I know a lot more about my medical condition now than I did before."
Serrano said at the news conference that ground zero workers have "health conditions that have cost them employment, health conditions that have put them in difficult family situations, health conditions that have totally changed their lives forever." He added, "Our government... talks about how much we respect them" but we have, "in fact, ignored them" (Hayasaki, Los Angeles Times, 5/26).
Moore's documentary "favorably compares the Cuban health care system to ours," but all that "the Cuban government has done ... is run a decades-long propaganda campaign to convince credulous or dishonest people that its health care system is worth emulating," Rich Lowry writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. According to Lowry, "Cuban health care works only for the select few," such as "high-ranking" members of the communist party or the military, a health care tourist who can pay for care at a "special facility catering to foreigners," or "a documentarian who can be relied upon to produce a lickspittle film white-washing the system."
Meanwhile, "[o]rdinary Cubans experience the wasteland of the real [health care] system," Lowry writes (Lowry, Washington Times, 5/27).