Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sicko: We Must Change US Health Care Now

Last night I was invited to the first Bay Area screening of Sicko, Michael Moore's new film about health care. Funny, tragic, entertaining, thoughtful, and energizing; see it! The audience cheered and clapped in a standing ovation for almost 10-15 minutes, similar to the reception the film received at the Cannes Film Festival.

Mr. Moore was there for a Q&A. "What can we do to change things? How long will it take us?" were recurring questions in different guises from the audience. In other words, why do so many other countries in the world look after their citizens' health through universal health care but in the US, health care is seen as just another business with the P&L always top of mind, resulting in horrendous treatment for many of our poorer citizens, in debt and bankruptcy for those unable to meet the financial obligations caused by a disease or accident, or in many people avoiding proper care and treatment, resulting in even higher costs for the whole system and for taxpayers.

His answer, "First, we can prevent many health problems by eating fruits and vegetables and moving our bodies." He pointed out that he is now walking 30 minutes a day and has made small changes in his diet that have enabled him to lose 30 pounds in the last three months. And he's right, prevention is the best way to deal with the cost of getting sick in our country and lifestyle changes can result in lower cholesterol, lower blood pressures, and healthy blood sugar levels--all keys to preventing major chronic and debilitating diseases.

Secondly, "follow the money." He encouraged the audience to find out which of our elected officials--Senators, Representatives, the President--are getting financial support (and how much) from the health care industry. We really need to know who has a vested interest in not changing our system, resulting in exclusion of people from adequate care who can't pay and escalating drug and patient care prices. The culprits are pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and for-profit HMOs and hospital chains. But even more important and unethical are our elected officials who take big bucks in campaign support from these entities. Of course, they are then beholden to the health care industry and little to no change is the result. We voters and citizens need to demand that this unethical practice stop, immediately.

Given the demographics of our country and the inevitable ills of the aging Boomer generation, the US must solve this health care problem fast. Everyone needs adequate access to good health care. Because we care. Because it the right thing to do. Because it is the only way to keep our country strong.

As Michael Moore pointed out, "We are a wealthy nation. We can find billions when we need to kill people (as in Iraq). Why not use our money to help people live?"

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