Sicko, Meet Greedo

Between Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” and an election cycle in which the American people are naming healthcare as their number two issue (after the war in Iraq), American healthcare is about to undergo a long overdue and hopefully deep examination. If, however, all we do is focus on access to and payment for care — arguing, as Moore admirably does, for the elimination of private health insurance — then it is likely that the status quo will prevail, because the insurance companies will win that battle.

Remember, the insurance industry is a major contributor to and thus owner of the Congress. The men and women who make up the Senate and House are beholden to the industry for much of their financing yet, ironically enough, not for their own healthcare. Instead, all of the people who run the government (executive, legislative and judiciary) get their care through a government-run and -financed, single-payer, universal (for them) system.

We have to appreciate their conundrum when they get together to decide what to do about the rest of us — the fifty million who have no insurance at all, and many others who have the sort of tragically inadequate insurance that Moore highlights.

First, they can’t exactly relate — they have fantastic healthcare! Second, if they try to provide for us what we’re providing for them, their owners will stop sending all those big checks.

This is why the Clintons’ attempt at major reform stalled: though strong majorities of Americans then as now favored a switch to a single-payer, universal system, the nation’s wealthy elites would not be moved. Nothing changed, except, of course, things got worse.

This time, if we want to get it right, we need to look not just at how we pay for healthcare, but at the actual care. We need to revolutionize the way medicine is practiced, moving away from our expensive, invasive, technology- and drug-based system  to the sort of low-tech, people-centered, common sense care practiced in Cuba and other countries that are out-performing America.

Alas, this means stepping on the toes (and bottom-lines) of yet more wealthy elites — the doctors and pharmaceutical companies. So the only thing that will change is that in a couple years we’ll have another ten or twenty million people without insurance, while standard medical practices will have grown yet more expensive.

Michael Sky