Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Opinion: Sicko

I haven't seen "Sicko," Michael Moore's new film on the American health-care system.

But I am perturbed by the way critics scoff at his work. Putting aside whatever one thinks about his views or his accuracy, Moore brings serious problems to public attention that would otherwise be ignored or passed with indifference. This makes him a force for good in my book.

Take, for example, Michael Moynihan's negative review for Reason, in which he writes the following:

Moore is right that the American system is sick - on this, there is bipartisan and public consensus. The United States has the highest per capita health care spending in the world, with comparatively disappointing results. But his radical prescriptions, which include a call for a British-style, single-payer system, will likely have little resonance with viewers. Indeed, according to a recent ABC News/Kaiser Family Health study, insured Americans are overwhelmingly (89 percent) satisfied with their own care, while broadly concerned about rising costs of prescription drugs and critical of the care others receive.

Let's break down this paragraph:

(1) Moore is right that the American health-care system is broken; the public and both political parties agree.

(2) Few will be moved by Moore's "radical" prescriptions, because the vast majority of insured Americans are happy with their own care.

Note how Moynihan uses (1) to dismiss Moore -- the claim is that he isn't saying anything we don't already know. But if that's so, why is our health-care system still so dysfunctional? And why do politicians continue to get away with saying that America has "the world's best health-care system"? And why is Moore ridiculed if most people fundamentally agree with his basic point?

Note how Moynihan in (2) describes Moore's solutions as "radical," when they merely recommend systems that get better results than ours for less money. You may disagree with following the Western European or Canadian health-care systems, but what justifies calling them "radical"?

The two points above can be reduced to the following explanation of our health-care woes:

The majority agree that our health-care system is broken, but aren't motivated to reform it, because of happiness with their own care.

This explanation also shows why Moore deserves praise. Without figures like Moore reminding the public of just how badly our health-care system treats a large segment of the population, there would be little motivation to reform the system, despite widespread agreement that it's broken.

For this alone, Moore's feet should be kissed, warts and all. He is a voice of conscience that our society sorely needs.

1 comment:

Salt Water said...

Luckily I do not live where Michael Moore's views are thought badly of, so it is hard to understand your need to defend him. He is a god in my sight and I am sure when Sicko is seen he will be thought of highly. I have heard him speak of Sicko on Democracy Now. He was amazing. The good news for me is the news is getting around. I talked to two guys at a lunch counter yesterday who had heard him speak on a program unknown to me. That is more than I can say for Jessie Jackson's trips to the mid-east, not that you asked. In case you meant to ask, I was shocked to read in Aljazeera, last July 4Th, that Jessie was in Syria trying to advance peace in the region. This got zero coverage in the US as far as I could tell.