Friday, June 29, 2007

Sicko--Brief Observations


I went to see the movie today on a whim--got in the car about 3 minutes after deciding to go and walked into a showing just at the end of the previews--and a couple of things crossed my mind on watching the movie. The first thing is possibly going to surprise some of those familiar with the story surrounding my appendectomy, but I'm glad in a way that I had it in Russia. The severity of my case meant about 5 days in the Reanimation (their version of Intensive Care) ward and another 4 in a private room as I got over peritonitis. total cost for the procedure, the drugs, the awful food, and the private room added up to around $4500. I certainly wouldn't repeat the experience--I have but one appendix to give to the Russian Cause--but I certainly can't imagine how much an equivalent stay in an American hospital would cost. It certainly would have cost substantially more than $4500.

The second thing that made my mind go off on a parallel track for a minute or two occurred when the movie moved to HMOs looking to reduce costs. The easiest way they do this is to deny claims. Personal Disclosure Moment: Due to a facial injury I sustained years before in a motorcycle accident, a bunch of capillaries merged on my lip into something that looked like a blood blister. One winter evening, my chapped lips split, right over that damned thing. I bled like a piece of thawing liver for about two hours before I finally broke down and decided to go to an emergency room. Before I did so, I made sure to call the HMO to get "clearance." The gal, when she heard how long I'd been bleeding, told me to get the heck off the phone and go right away. The phone looked like a murder weapon, and the bathroom wasn't pretty at all by this point. So I went. The thing had to be cauterized to be got rid of. Twice, once by a specialist. My claim was denied. The reasons were idiotic even to my non-health-care-expert eyes. I had to write a long letter and my regular doctor did too before the HMO decided to--grudgingly--pay what they should've paid. They bank on the chances that you'll give up and just pay it yourself. It's their way of maximizing profit while you pay them to do nothing for you.

But the thing that struck me most was the number of handicapped spots in the theater that were occupied, the wheelchairs, elderly folks, and people with crutches that were in that screening room this afternoon. That spoke volumes. People may have their issues with parts of Moore's argument, but seeing the number of disenfranchised and directly-affected folks that are turning out to see the movie, there is little doubt that the system is not helping those it should be. Recommended viewing.

--Photo adapted from Anton Corbijn's video Never Let Me Down Again

6 comments:

Jon Sealy said...

I've been wanting to see Sicko, waiting on a rainy day off. Did the movie suggest any practical ways to overhaul our system? The Capitalist system is necessarily broken because we wouldn't buy health insurance if we didn't think our healthcare would eventually be more expensive than the price of insurance, but if that were actually true for everyone, the companies wouldn't be able to stay in business, much less turn over a handsome profit. I don't know anything about socialized medicine. A friend of mine argued against it based solely on her not wanting to pay taxes for a bunch of fatties to drain the system because they don't have the will to take care of themselves. Sounds cold, but she makes a good case...

Davo said...

The socialised medicine experience I had in Russia certainly wasn't great(roaches, frightening circumstances, etc), and Canada and France appear to have their problems--but the point of the movie appears to be that, here in America, we are certainly capable of looking at the various systems and picking what does work and making a hybrid system that maximises the strengths and minimises the weakneses. It certainly is better than people putting themselves in jeopardy because their insurance won't do what it's supposed to...

Kristen said...

Brian and I thought of going to see it, but I'm afraid if I did, I'd be depressed for weeks.

Just a note, Travis had a friend come to visit him in Pittsburgh over some school break (I forget which). She wound up having an emergency appendectomy. Her insurance didn't cover anything out of state. She wound up having to declare bankruptcy.

Kristen said...

Oh, and let me just say to your friend as a "fatty," Joe, may your friend not ever have any health problems, or anything so ridiculously expensive as having a baby that I have to pay for. Yes, she may have a point--I don't think I'd enjoy paying for a smoker's cancer treatments--but if that's what it takes I'd much rather have a system in which everyone gets the medical care they need than one in which only the wealthy have access to care. But maybe I'm biased because I'm a fatty who supposedly doesn't have the will to take care of herself. It's startling how fat one can get by following a varied vegetarian diet and trying to exercise as joint problems will allow while taking two medications (not for health issues related to weight problems, mind you) that cause weight gain. (We won't talk about those "sturdy Swiss milk maid genes.") Am I trying to absolve myself completely of any responsibility for my weight? Hell no! Just trying to point out that the issue is not so simple as "will."

Jon Sealy said...

The smoking argument is better than the fatty argument, but my friend's a smoker, so she obviously wouldn't want to make that case...

brian said...

Don't get me started about how many hoops I have gone through with Farm Bureau Auto Insurance...let's just say I'm considering buying a 30 dollar sign for the side of my car that says, "Don't buy State Farm Insurance" rather than spending the 30 dollars on a new mirror for my driver's side.