(Screenshot from the FRONTLINE documentary, Sick Around The World. Every American ought to watch this program to raise their awareness on universal health care.)
When I saw SiCKO
it appealed to my emotion. It was a very effective propaganda. Its aim
was noble and I generally sympathized with its message. But it was
biased. It presented the ugly side of health care in the U.S. while
elevating the rosy image of health care in other developed countries.
Nevertheless, Michael Moore proved to be successful in raising
consciousness on the issue of universal health care (or lack thereof)
in the U.S.
But if we are to skilfully tackle the issue of universal health care a better
approach would be to look at the pros and cons of universal health care
in other countries, learn from their experience,
and then copy the model(s) that would be applicable to the U.S. and its
unique culture and free-market economy. And that’s exactly what
FRONTLINE did in the documentary, Sick Around the World. Watch it. It’s free.
I’ve watched it twice already. I’ve learned a lot of things about different universal health care models by reading the accompanying transcripts, interviews, analysis, discussions, and Q&A with journalist T.R. Reid.
It’s the best documentary on health care I’ve seen. I won’t be
surprised if T.R. Reid wins yet another Pulitzer Prize for the book based on this documentary.
What I particularly like about this documentary is that, even if T.R. Reid is an advocate of universal health care (the
screenshot above is Reid writing a prayer during his visit to a
Japanese shrine), he did a more balanced presentation than SiCKO by taking a more professional journalistic perspective,
talking to the heads of states, politicians, economists, doctors, and patients,
and asking sharp questions on the pros and cons of each health care system he investigated. There’s no emotional drama involved. It’s purely
an intellectual and investigative journey.
The result? The more I watch the documentary the more I’m convinced
that universal health care in the U.S. is indeed possible. Changing the
current messy health care system would not be easy, of course. It would
require bold political moves, radical changes to the free-market that
drives our broken health care to make it more efficient, but most
importantly, we need to have a shift in our collective moral values and
philosophy in accepting health care as basic human right.
The latter point, as it stands right now in the U.S., is one of the
main stumbling blocks for achieving a truly universal access to health
care (not to mention lobbying by insurance and drug companies who would
be greatly impacted by government regulation). This point of contention
is still hotly debated. There are valid points raised by opposing voices. However, looking at developed countries that had already implemented universal health care, their (consensus) answer to the question of health care as basic human right is a resounding, yes!
So the first step is to get beyond the hurdle of this philosophical
roadblock. T.R. Reid covered this philosophical point succinctly during
his interview with the current president of Switzerland, Pascal Couchepin.
“Now, see, that’s striking for an American, because
we would certainly say everyone is entitled to an education, everyone
is entitled to legal protection if you get in trouble with the law, but
we don’t say that everyone is entitled to health care.”
“Why? Because it is a profound need for people to be sure that, if
they are struck by a stroke of destiny, they can have a good health
“… So if you ask the people of Switzerland, is everyone entitled to decent health care, the Swiss would say?”
“Everybody has a right to health care.”
Unfortunately, Americans are still divided on this. I find it ironic
that the richest nation in the world, where majority of people work
their asses off, and where vacation days are laughable compared to
other developed nations, the notion that “everybody has a right to
health care” is still not accepted unilaterally. If we are to take baby
steps towards universal health care, this is the first baby step to
make: everybody has a right to health care. Other developed countries had already
made the leap while the U.S. has been paralyzed in its tracks, thanks
to ideological clashes and business as usual self-interests.
In the meantime, the leading presidential candidates are just
“tinkering at the margins of a system that needs fundamental change.”
There’s House Resolution (H.R.) 676 looming on the horizon. Whether the U.S. will get there remains to be seen.
For now, here’s a prayer for a true universal health care in the U.S.