‘Sicko’ Screening Triggers Debate Among Lawmakers
Michael Moore's health care industry documentary "Sicko" debuted in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and the film maker held a press conference on Capitol Hill to galvanize support for the creation of a single-payer system in the U.S., CQ HealthBeat reports.
The press conference featured clips from "Sicko," which compares the U.S. health care system to Canada's single-payer system, as well as testimony from individuals featured in the documentary and from lawmakers who support greater government regulation of health care.
Democrats who spoke at the event offered their support for legislation (HR 676) sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would create a publicly financed but privately delivered health care system, based on expanding Medicare.
Conyers, who sponsored the press conference along with House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.), called health care "the most important issue we're working on in Congress, outside of Iraq" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/20). Conyers first introduced the legislation in 2003 (CongressDaily, 6/21).
Moore said that a single-payer system is necessary to "remove the profit incentive in health care," adding, "These companies need to be regulated like a public utility."
Moore on Wednesday afternoon screened the film for health care lobbyists, who he said have "a death grip on the American people" and a "chokehold on the Hill" (Young, The Hill, 6/21).
Later on Wednesday, Moore screened the movie for the general public at a different movie theatre, where he called on people to hold insurance companies accountable and eliminate them from the health care system.
He said, "There is no room for [insurers] in health. Their day is over, the American people will send them running." Moore acknowledged that people living in countries with single-payer health systems can experience problems with timely access to health care but said he "bet[s] no Canadian would trade his health care card for your HMO card" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/20).
Moore, Conyers and other lawmakers hope the film will motivate the public to take action to overhaul the U.S. health system.
Moore said, "Millions of Americans, after they see this movie, are going to be coming after (health insurance companies)," adding, "I believe that there's going to be a groundswell of support."
Moore added that the health care proposals put forward by Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) do not go far enough because they retain too large of a role for private insurers.
Democratic candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), who has presented a plan for a single-payer system, said that the documentary "is going to provide a tremendous boost for [Conyers'] legislation," adding that "2008 is the year when we're going to make this happen" (The Hill, 6/21).
In related news, the Hartford Courant on Thursday examined how Moore "takes direct aim at the U.S. health care system and the whole insurance industry" in "Sicko."
While insurers "say they're not worried about 'Sicko,'" America's Health Insurance Plans has been "issuing frequent statements aimed at defusing Moore's call" for a single-payer system by highlighting the rationing and long wait times for health services in countries with single-payer systems.
AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said, "I think it's very, very clear the American people don't support a government takeover of the health care arena." She called "Sicko" an "editorial," adding, "There was never any attempt by Mr. Moore to seek out our members to answer questions, to respond to cases in the movie." She also noted that some cases portrayed in the film are more than 10 years old.
Ignagni said insurers view the documentary as an opportunity to discuss their proposals for expanding coverage through private-public partnerships and to "talk about the value we provide" through disease management and prevention programs (Levick, Hartford Courant, 6/21).