The aim of this report is to present a proposal for reform in the US health care sector, based on Michael Moore’s award-winning documentary film, Sicko. In this film, Moore conducts a detailed investigation into the culture of fraud surrounding the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and advocates the implementation of a universal health coverage plan for all Americans.
The rationale behind such a policy move is based on sound ethics and mandatory responsibilities of community medical care to be assumed by the health care establishment (Rosenberg & Rehr, 1983, p.2). As advocated in Sicko, lifetime access to proper medical care for human beings should be seen as a right, not a monetary privilege (Berkman & Ambruso, 2006, p.948). This means the Government, pharmaceutical companies and other agencies attached to health care, should all be made accountable to the social well-being of patients and reduce the needless amount of suffering in the existing health care system.
Consequently, it’s shown in the movie that the existing system is fraught with gross inadequacies and red tapism, and has been wrongfully played by health insurance companies for their own profit interests instead of addressing patient need for prompt medical attention. Taking several real-life examples, Moore brings corroborative evidence on the climate of fear surrounding the health care industry in the United States today.
Basically, despite the existence of a health insurance coverage, the movie highlights the growing problem of health care companies denying deserving patients a proper medical treatment based on minor, and often frivolous excuses. Donna and Larry Smith, a senior citizen couple, are forced to sell down their house and move elsewhere because despite insurance, they cannot afford the cost of real drugs. Laura, a middle class woman, relates an episode where she was knocked out cold due to an accident, and is denied ambulance payments on the pretext that she did not call for medical care at the time of the accident.
In more examples, a person’s daughter who was going deaf from 9 months age onwards, was allowed implants in one ear only by the insurance company which makes the whole premise unreasonable. Another patient learned to much agony that insurance companies didn’t cover heart disease and diabetes. Later investigation by Moore showed there was a long list of diseases including AIDS, autism, cystic fibrosis and hemophilia which are routinely omitted by insurance companies.
According to revelations by industry insiders, it was depicted that most of these companies operate on the premise that any payment to a client is deemed as a business loss, and consequently, have a team of medical experts on the payroll to find a valid reasoning to deny a patient’s request, based on their medical history.
All above examples, if true, represent a clear violation of a patient’s dignity as a human being and a client that seeks genuine redressal of their pain and trauma (Fort Cowles, 2003, p.370). The film, Sicko, further depicts scenes where US congressmen are shown hand in glove with the medical mafia, and are furthering their interests by bringing in bills that make it more expensive for care seekers to receive the much needed attention.
As conclusion and as a final proposal, a national medical care coverage system is advocated by the author. This is based on the assertion that after exposing deficiencies in the American health care sector, Moore brings out the benefits of health care models prevalent in other countries: Canada, United Kingdom and France. These countries have a functioning medical system which is not hostage to corporate greed, and thus, more in tune with ethics of medical treatment.
Any American fears of “socialism” and long queues to seek treatment, are put to rest by explaining how patients can be encouraged to pay for their own treatment through a tax paying structure which indirectly subsidizes the treatment of all. The onus is on building a just and humane society where patients are not treated as outcastes, but people deserving quality treatment. The National Health Service (NHS) system of the UK is a reasonably good example where doctors and care-givers are on government roll (subsidized by tax payer) and government offers subsidies on medicines irrespective of ailment. NHS also is one of the major clients of UK pharmaceutical companies.
Berkman, B., & Ambruso, S. (2006). Handbook of Social Work in Health and Aging. Oxford University Press: London. 948
Fort Cowles, L.A. (2003). Social Work in the Health Field: A Care Perspective, Haworth Press Inc: New York. 370
Rosenberg, G. & Rehr, H. (1983). Advancing Social Work Practice in the Health care Field: Emerging Issues and New Perspectives. Haworth Press Inc: New York. 2