Google Faulted for Blog Posting Critical of ‘Sicko’
Google last week responded to criticism across the Internet after an employee on one of its blogs posted a negative review of Michael Moore's new documentary, "Sicko," about the U.S. health care system, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Kopytoff, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/5).
"Sicko" premiered in the U.S. last month. In the film, Moore documents stories of the uninsured, individuals who were denied care and people who were discharged improperly by hospitals (California Healthline, 6/14).
Lauren Turner, an account planner for Google, wrote on Google's health care advertising blog that the film was one-sided and did not highlight any positive contributions from the nation's health care system, such as attention to patient care and philanthropy. Turner in her posting suggested that health care companies should purchase Google ads to counter Moore's criticisms.
The comments sparked criticism from other sites that accused Google of taking sides and failing to acknowledge problems with the health care system.
Missy Krasner, a Google product marketing manager, issued an apology, and also wrote that "Google does share many of the concerns that Mr. Moore expresses about the cost and availability of health care in America" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/5).
Meanwhile, the implications of the film continue to be debated with editorial boards, columnists and other health care stakeholders weighing in on the issue. Summaries of recent editorials, opinion pieces and letters to the editor appear below.
- Des Moines Register: "Sicko" should "[s]pur Americans, at long last, to demand a system that covers everyone, while providing greater quality and reining in costs," according to a Register editorial. The "best option" for achieving this goal is to create a "government-financed system, much like Medicare" that "wouldn't be 'socialized medicine,'" according to the editorial (Des Moines Register, 7/6).
- Long Island Newsday: Moore's "scathing critique of the flaws in the U.S. system is accurate," but his film "brushes off" the ways in which "demographic pressures and rising costs have taken their toll" on health care systems in European nations and Cuba, a Newsday editorial states. Such pressures have caused other countries "to ration their care, some by long waits, others by denial of expensive treatments by age, others by the adoption of stiff copayments," the editorial states, concluding, "There is no simple answer. 'Sicko' pretends there is" (Long Island Newsday, 7/7).
- San Jose Mercury News: "Moore's examination of the current system presents a compelling argument that it's both a mess and in desperate need of significant reform," according to a Mercury News editorial. The Mercury News writes that "despite the weaknesses of Moore's film," including a "superficial" examination of the health care systems in Canada, England, France and Cuba, the film "deserves its highest marks for forcing Americans to try to come to grips with the question of whether the current system is meeting our expectations." The editorial concludes, "The sooner we acknowledge our shortcomings and start debating the potential solutions, the better" (San Jose Mercury News, 7/5).
- Cyril Chang, Memphis Commercial Appeal: "As a provocateur, Moore did a skillful job pointing out the many problems facing the health care system of this country," but his film uses "half-truths, misleading facts and omissions" when discussing the U.S. health care system and systems in other countries, Chang, a professor of economics and director of the Methodist LeBonheur Center for Healthcare Economics at the University of Memphis, writes in a Commercial Appeal opinion piece. Chang concludes, "Health care is a complex national issue that deserves greater attention for a more informed discussion. However, a one-sided portrayal of the issues and simplistic prescriptions for a multifaceted problem will not bring us closer to a sensible solution" (Chang, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 7/8).
- Sally Pipes, New York Daily News: Moore "is more concerned with promoting an anti-free-market agenda than getting his facts straight" about the Canadian health care system, Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, writes in a Daily News opinion piece. Pipes continues, "Government-run health care in Canada inevitably resolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation." In addition, Moore "ignores the fact that 85% of hospital beds in the U.S." are in not-for-profit hospitals when he claims that profit "has no place in health care," according to Pipes (Pipes, New York Daily News, 7/6).
- Paul Krugman, New York Times: "For more than 60 years, the medical-industrial complex and its political allies have used scare tactics to prevent America from following its conscience and making access to health care a right for all citizens," Times columnist Krugman writes in an opinion piece. Regarding the Canadian health care system, which is featured in "Sicko," Krugman writes, "Yes, Canadians wait longer than insured Americans for elective surgery. But overall, the average Canadian's access to health care is as good as that of the average insured American -- and much better than that of uninsured Americans, many of whom never receive needed care at all." He concludes, "The only things standing in the way of universal health care are the fear-mongering and influence-buying of interest groups. If we can't overcome those forces here, there's not much hope for America's future" (Krugman, New York Times, 7/9).
- Uwe Reinhardt, Baltimore Sun: "For the most part, ... critics miss the point of Mr. Moore's effort," Reinhardt, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, writes in a Sun letter to the editor. Reinhardt writes, "In a nutshell, Mr. Moore asks Americans two questions: What kind of people have we become who can tolerate so much callousness and outright cruelty in our health system, even if only at the margin?" According to Reinhardt, the second question is, "Given that we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as Canada and many European nations spend, do we get anything commensurate in added value for our spending?" (Reinhardt, Baltimore Sun, 7/9).
- Robert Bell, Wall Street Journal: A commentary published last month in the Journal by David Gratzer, a physician in the U.S. and Canada and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, "presents an extremely prejudicial view of the publicly funded Canadian health system," Bell, president and CEO of the University Health Network in Toronto, writes in a Journal letter to the editor. "Canadians pay about 9% of national [gross domestic product] to insure 100% of citizens in our single-payer system, compared with more than 14% GDP to insure 85% of Americans," Bell writes, adding, "Canadians spend about 55% of what Americans spend on health care and have longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates." Bell concludes, "Mr. Moore's description of the advantages of the Canadian system in the film is more accurate than the jaundiced view of our system proposed by Dr. Gratzer" (Bell, Wall Street Journal, 7/9).
- Danielle Martin, Wall Street Journal: "In a systematic review of 38 studies published in Open Medicine in May, 17 leading Canadian and U.S. researchers confirmed the Canadian system leads to health outcomes as good, or better, than the U.S. private system, at less than 50% of the cost," Martin, board chair of the Canadian Doctors for Medicare, writes in a Journal letter to the editor. "Numerous expert reports, including the 2002 Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, have already told us we need to restore and strengthen Medicare [to reduce wait times], not decimate it" by introducing private insurance, Martin writes (Martin, Wall Street Journal, 7/9).