I haven't sounded off about reform... like most, I am tired of the Congressional charades that have proven it is more about being afraid to vote for your constituency while still gathering political contributions, and less about being a political leader and doing what helps the country.
The bill is not perfect. It will not reform the system. It is a beginning. The best way for me to illustrate where we are today is to go back in time, just coming out of Michael Moore's 2007 film, "Sicko". My review from back then:
In Michael Moore's past films,he spent too much time on himself and his sarcasm in the films, substituting his political beliefs sometimes for his judgement as a filmmaker. Thus, he was destined to polarize a lot of potential viewers.
I saw "Sicko" today, Moore's film about healthcare in America. As for pointing a political finger, he chose not to blame one political party or another ... oh, there are a couple of Bush jokes and one poke at Hillary, but for the most part, what Moore was trying to express was, with our deep-seated fear of socialism, we have allowed a corrupt and ineffective system of healthcare and health insurance to permeate (and in many families' cases, nearly destroy) our country's way of life. The plight of many who have suffered in the American healthcare system is staggering, and sad.
Moore tells his story through a series of vignettes, and chooses NOT to discuss the most obvious issue - those who have NO healthcare insurance. Instead, he focuses on the issues faced by those who DO, or who can apply. Most of the issues, portrayed in the first half of the film deal with those who cannot get a policy because of pre-existing conditions (e.g., those who are the sickest, those who have the most debilitating diseases, who need healthcare the most) and cannot get covered. I'm lucky. My employer takes all employees and their dependents into the policy on the first day of employment. That's right, the first day. No pre-existing conditions. My employer also allows an HRA plan for those who want to spend less on their healthcare. It provides major medical, and a high deductible ($1500 for singles). The company pays the first 1/2, or $750, of your deductible. Some, of course, never even use the $750, yet have the safety net of major medical. An excellent choice for workers. My employer is a health insurer. Think about that.
Then there is the matter of what is covered, and what is not covered. Moore shows the plight of a 50 something couple (he's had three heart surgeries, she's a cancer survivor). They've been bankrupted just by co-pays and deductibles and are forced to live in a small room with their daughter. He shows the fate of a man who is the spouse of a healthcare worker at a large Midwestern hospital....his brother has been diagnosed as a perfect candidate to donate bone marrow to prevent his death from kidney cancer, but the hospitalization policy won't pay for the surgery. You can guess what happens to the man with cancer.
Throughout this series, he points out the issues with the big insurance companies (also including some very difficult to deal with situations where their employees who have to deny care try to cope with the blame they lay on themselves), the big pharmaceutical companies, the employers who are trying to cut costs and specify the terms of the plans, the legislature, the past attempts by executives to do something about it, and the general malaise in government about the situation. This is strong stuff. It is nothing we don't know, but to see it assembled here, in essay format, is to feel some of the shame and sense of hopelessness we have all faced when friends, relatives or we, ourselves, struggle with healthcare and its costs. To wonder where America took the wrong turn, the wrong fork in the road.
Moore moves into the danger of socialized medicine by showing some of the rhetoric we have been subjected to in the US about how bad the system is. He points out that our healthcare system is ranked 37th in the world, just above Slovenia's. He lets us visit the healthcare system in Canada, Britain and France, to make the contrast between their government systems and our startlingly inept private system. The biggest laugh in the film is found here, when we learn why the British hospital has a cashier's desk. (No spoiler, watch the DVD!) It is at this point that the realization hits home. In contrast to those in friendly democratic and quasi-friendly, quasi-socialist western companies..... well, we suck at this.
And that, my friends, is the message. Through our shame and our ineptitude, we have allowed the most important elements of our society, our people, to suffer. We have used our tax dollars unwisely, we have had the wrong social priorities, and we must change it. NOW. Even imperfect change is better than the spiral downward we are experiencing.
Moore's film is not without its stunt. And even if you recognize it for the stunt it is, even if you know that what you see on camera was somewhat staged, you can't help but break down. This is the controversial scene where Moore learns that we have universal healthcare for the inmates at Guantanamo, so he takes some EMT volunteers from the 911 cleanup effort, who have become very sick, and a few others from the film, by boat, to Guantanamo. They can't get in to get free healthcare. So, he takes them to a free clinic/hospital in Cuba, and everyone receives some of the help they needed that they couldn't get in America. And a tribute is made by Cuban firefighters to some of these unsung heroes of 911.
The film is grainy, has some inserts of scenes from the 40's and 50's that are hokey, there is still too much Michael Moore. I'm sure there are things that are inaccurate. I'm told that the wait times to see doctors in many universal healthcare systems are appalling, but by and large, you can see that we have allowed our own system to erode appallingly, in this film.....but it is much more than just a film. It is a wake up call. So join me, go see it. Wake up. This is one of the greatest countries in the world. It's time we got our priorities straight and started acting like it.