Thursday, June 07, 2007

SiCKO Gets Bipartisan Support

Michael Moore's films are never exactly objective, but in today's PC world, that's not always a bad thing, especially if it gets people talking about the issues. Healthcare is an important issue for the diabetes community, yet it has received little serious attention in Washington since former first lady, now Senator and 2008 Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a complex proposal of more than 1,000 pages (the core element of which was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive but closely-regulated HMOs) to Congress on September 22, 1993. That plan, referred to derisively as "HillaryCare" by some, ultimately died in Congress.

Since then, political leaders have largely ignored the issue, hoping it would go away. But the problem has only grown. In the decade since "HillaryCare" died, the ranks of uninsured have grown in sheer numbers and percentages. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2005, there were 46.6 million uninsured Americans, which was 15.9% of the total population. Also, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) coverage rates have been falling steadily. For example, in 2000, 66% of non-elderly Americans were insured through the workplace, but by 2004, only 61% were covered by ESI.

Most Americans want our leaders to start addressing the issue. According to a March 2007 New York Times/CBS News Poll, most Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American. The findings cut across party lines and suggest that a majority of Americans are willing to make some sacrifices to insure that everyone has access to healthcare insurance. 60%, including 62% of independents and 46% of Republicans, said they would be willing to pay more in taxes. Half said they would be willing to pay as much as $500 a year more. Nearly 8 in 10 said they thought it was more important to provide universal access to health insurance than to extend the tax cuts of recent years; a mere 18% said the tax cuts were more important.

President Bush, in his 2008 budget proposal, announced what he called a "new health care proposal" to change the tax treatment of health care by replacing the tax preference provided to employer-based coverage with a standard health insurance deduction for individuals and families. A companion initiative, Affordable Choices, would permit states to redirect funds paid to hospitals and other health care institutions to initiatives that would provide the uninsured with private insurance. But critics claim that the initiative does nothing to eliminate the core problem: the inability for individuals to purchase policies or ensure that the cost of those policies are more affordable. What's more, they argue that by shifting tax incentives away from employers, the Bush plan could actually discourage more employers from offering healthcare benefits because they'll no longer have a tax incentive to offer healthcare plans.

On June 29, 2007, Michael Moore's movie SiCKO premiers in theaters across the U.S. His goal is to critique the issues of the American healthcare system in provocative way. SiCKO opened last month at the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews and standing ovations. And, unlike some of his previous films, this one has received widespread bipartisan praise from across the political spectrum.

SiCKO has been featured in BusinessWeek, and Michael Moore also recently appeared on Oprah to promote the film. For the most part, the movie has garnered praise from nearly all parties, except from the healthcare industry. Even Fox News, hardly an objective news source, gave SiCKO a thumbs up, saying:

Filmmaker Michael Moore's brilliant and uplifting new documentary, "Sicko," deals with the failings of the U.S. healthcare system, both real and perceived. But this time around, the controversial documentarian seems to be letting the subject matter do the talking, and in the process shows a new maturity.

Moore notes that political action is necessary to fix the problems in the health insurance industry, and he does not want the issue itself to be seen as political. "It's not a partisan issue. It's not Democrat or Republican," Michael says. "When you get sick, you get sick. The illness doesn't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican."

The challenge is that many politicians have grown very accustomed to support from the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries, and Moore highlights those politicians in SiCKO. The Bush family, for example, has deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry, especially to insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company. A sample of people who have been on the Eli Lilly and Company payroll includes: Former President George Herbert Walker Bush (one-time member of the Eli Lilly board of directors), Former CEO of Enron, Ken Lay (also a one-time member of the Eli Lilly board of directors), George W. Bush's former director of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels (a former Eli Lilly vice president) and finally, George W. Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council member is none other than Sidney Taurel (current CEO of Eli Lilly and Company). But Democrats are hardly immune from Moore's investigation. For example, Hillary Clinton is reportedly one of the prominent politicians profiled in SiCKO.

While representatives from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry's main trade group, along with others from the healthcare industry have been busy trying to portray themselves working towards solving the nation's healthcare problems, the truth is, surprisingly, they weren't especially well-prepared for Moore's infamous tactics. For example, PhRMA issued a press release that discredited Moore's filmmaking ability, which was exactly what Michael Moore wanted them to do because it generates tons of free publicity for his movie, which could top Fahrenheit 9/11 as the biggest documentary of all time. He's playing the pharmaceutical industry like a flute!

No doubt, you will see more of SiCKO in the coming weeks. As some of the comments on Amy Tenderich's post on this subject a while back suggest, anything that gets people to talk about the issue is a good thing. Until the end of the month when SiCKO opens, you can catch the preview to SiCKO here:

There was also a story about SiCKO on CNN:

Finally, Manny Hernandez, the founder of the bilingual diabetes community TuDiabetes (who commented on this posting, see comments for details) offers his own thoughts on diabetes and the U.S. Healthcare system here:


Unknown said...

Apologies for being kind of mean but if MM isn't Type 2 or pre-diabetic, then I'd be surprised. It would be interesting to see how much he touches on personal responsibility in health care.

I'm not a huge fan of his movies - not for political reasons but because his journalistic style rivals Fox News. That being said, I might actually watch this cause of the subject matter.

manny hernandez said...

I really hope the movie makes a difference. Just posted a video-reply to his YouTube video: