Allow me to tread lightly.
That is, in fact, the only way a person can walk when wearing flip-flops.
Because I used to be against Universal Health Coverage and “Socialized Medicine”. But on Sunday I watched a documentary made by a guy I really dislike: Michael Moore.
The movie, as you may have guessed, was called “Sicko” and was made for the purpose of alerting Americans to the brokenness of our health care / health insurance system, and opening our eyes to the Socialized Health programs of other Western nations.
I have no confidence in Moore’s approach to bear any resemblance to serious, responsible journalism. The movie is clearly a piece of irreverent, shameless liberal propaganda. I am certain the stories are real, and I don’t accuse him of fabricating the stats or facts presented in the film. His main infraction, I believe, was to present only the bad side of the American system, and only the good side of the systems of Canada, England, France and Cuba (yes… Cuba.)
The Cuban bit was particularly poignant and shameless at the same time. Reports from the mouths of Congress have it that detainees at Guantanamo Bay receive top-notch health care and dental care. Since Gitmo is on American soil, this gave Moore an idea. Why not take all the victims of his film’s sob stories on a boat from Miami to Guantanamo to be treated for their long-neglected problems?
So they pile into three boats, and launch into the wind, with frontier-glory adventure-type music playing as they speed to the south, with a mixture of hope and fear in their eyes. When they arrive at the gate, Moore shouts to the security tower, “I have sick Americans, including 9-11 rescue workers. They need medical attention! The same kind you give to Al-Qaeda! We just want what the bad guys are getting!” Of course, he got no response. So they found their way to Havana.
Although Cuba is a very poor country, apparently their national health care system is halfway decent. But to watch Sicko, you’d think the island nation was crammed full of grandfatherly Good Samaritans with PhDs and stethoscopes. It was actually a touching moment to see these ailing people finally get the health care they deserved, for free. Nevertheless, it did strain credibility.
Having said that, I must add that much of the Health Care (or lack thereof) we experience in this country strains credibility as well. I do not fault the doctors, nurses, or even hospital administrators and boards of directors. I fault the insurance and pharmaceutical giants, and malpractice attorneys. There is a common thread running through these three rotten pursuits, and that is greed and power. The bottom line. The fat market share. The big payoff.
When the topic of Universal Health Care was broached to me, I used to have a common response: Our government seems to have the opposite of the Midas touch. They turn everything they touch into garbage. Give them a gold brick, and what you get back is only good for fertilizer.
This cynicism has not left me. Congressmen and women rate no higher than pharmaceutical CEOs in my book. But I cannot escape the reality of ever-higher premiums and drug prices, ever-lower standards of coverage, and the increasing hopelessness of even middle-class Americans to actually get the care they need. I also can’t escape the success acheived in other Western nations with Socialized Medicine programs.
In the film, Moore asks one question at a crucial point that really grabbed me. “Who are we?” he pleads. Are we not a nation concerned with the least of these? Are we the kind of people whose doctors and nurses must expel a critically ill patient, and drop them off at a homeless shelter, simply due to a lack of money? Is that the nation we want to be?
In many issues of charity, I rebel against the concept of increased government involvement, and advocate for more community involvement. I believe our beaurocracy is far too active, and our theology not nearly active enough. Local not-for-profits, churches, community organizations… those are the agencies best-positioned and motivated to make a real difference.
Our governing bodies are already obscenely bloated, and have 50 times as many arms as I believe the Constitution intended. For example, America now has more employees in the Department of Agriculture than it has farmers. Do we need one more excuse for the Federal Government to put its myriad fingers into our lives? Government needs to be responsible for those things only government can accomplish. Several good examples are the Postal Service, Highway Systems, the Military, Law Enforcement, and Regulation of Commerce, Communications and Foreign Trade.
And so that brings me to the question: What kind of health care system should we strive for as Americans? Is it conceivable that our current medical milieu has any potential to acheive it? Is it conceivable that churches and not-for-profits and local goodwill organizations have the capacity to meet such a goal?
I would have to say no. It may just be that Washington needs to ask itself a rare question, “What would Jesus do?” and come to the conclusion that, in regards to health care, it must do what only Washington can do. Our government must see to it that all Americans have access to the same care, regardless of age, health history or socioeconomic status. Despite my various policy differences with President-Elect Obama, I have some hope that he can inspire us as a nation to acheive this.
It may take a while. It may not work well at first, or ever. It may endear us to old memories of copays and deductibles and claim denials. It may fail entirely.
Nevertheless, I have officially flip-flopped. Come what may, I am thoroughly convinced…
We’ve got to try.