Thursday, January 28, 2010


I am, of course, referring to the documentary by Mike Moore, in which he compares the US's healthcare system very unfavourably with that of Canada and the UK.

Now, I know that Mr Moore has been known to be a little biased in his film-making, to push for his view even if it means excluding evidence to the contrary. But I don't know him to be a liar.

Even taking into account what I know about the man (and I'm still a fan), what I've learned about the American health system is truly shocking. My understanding of the system was that - if you could afford health insurance or had it as a job perk, you'd be fine. If you were old, you'd be covered by Medicare. If you didn't fall into either category, you'd be at the mercy of a small number of overcrowded public hospitals. And I thought Sicko was going to be a rant against the need for health insurance.

I really wasn't expecting it to be a rant against the health insurance companies themselves, that their goal is to deny any claim if they possibly can in order to save money - to the extent that the pay of doctors employed by these companies went up in direct proportion to the amount of money they saved.

In comparison, the residents of Canada, the UK and even Cuba, enjoy free medical care and cheap or  subsidised medicines (I know, in real life there are waiting lists - but it's better than being told you can't get it at all). Moore even took a group of Americans who'd been suffering health problems caused by their time doing voluntary rescue work at the 9/11 site - all of whom had been denied health insurance funding for medical treatment - and took them on a trip to Cuba, where they received free and un-rushed care in a hospital, really cheap medication and a hero's salute by the local fire brigade.

And the most shocking thing is that this film was released well before Obama became president. And it's STILL looking like America is not going to get universal healthcare.

It's made me extremely glad to be living in New Zealand where, although it's not free to see your GP and neither are medicines, both still affordable enough that most people who need help will get it before its too late.


Nigel Patel said...

We have a corporate oligarchy with a vestigial, decorative democracy.
Wealth will always be safe from the workings of our democracy because they own all the players (Minus a Bernie Sanders here or a Dennis Kucinich there...)involved.
Not only are we not going to get universal healthcare in my lifetime, we are going to lose universal public education.

A cheery message from the United Stupid of America.

donnasoowho said...

that's interesting (I've not seen the doco.). Australia is a little bit that way inclined (in terms of offering incentives/disincentives/whatever it's called) to have private health cover. But I've never had any trouble making claims from my health care provider. I have, however, recently upgraded my income protection insurance. What a friggin' drama! I am told I am lucky to qualify at all (having 2 illnesses) but still have to pay full price, but am disqualified from a very broad ranged of illnesses (even if they don't relate directly to my current problems), which I think seems unfair. Sure, don't cover me if you feel so inclined but still charge me for it!

Violet said...

nigel: yeah I remember one part in the movie where a bunch of Senators are walking into a room and there's a bubble over each one's head displaying the amount of money that a health insurance corp has already donated to that person.

donnasoowho: there surely must be a reasonable proportion of Americans who haven't had problems with their claims, or surely we wouldn't need a documentary to tell us about it? I was hoping that someone reading the blog post would leave comment to that effect, but no.

Nigel Patel said...

Our corporate masters.

Kazzer said...

Long live the National Health Service. It's free and it saved my baby!!! I hate to think what happens to babies and children from poor American families.

Violet said...

Kazzer: yeah you lot are very lucky. Even though its free to go to hospital here, and doctors' visits and medicines are subsidised, it can still seem pretty expensive to get sick.