Discussing Sicko: Agent Resources

June 29th marks the release of Michael Moore’s latest film, Sicko. The movie is a brutal attack on America’s health care system. It reflects Moores stated hope that the film sparks a movement “to eliminate private, profit-making health-insurance companies. There’s absolutely no room for them in this country,” he has said.

Michael Moore is an Ocsar-winning director and is generating tremendous publicity for his film. He has or will be appearing on Oprah, Leno and Letterman. He’s already testified on behalf of SB 840, the single payer bill now be considered by California’s Legislature. So it is highly likely you’ll be asked by clients and friends as to what the fuss is all about.

Fortunately, there are several resources available to help you respond to these questions:
The “Three Myths of a Single-Payer Health Care Delivery System” Presentation. This PowerPoint presentation — complete with speaker’s notes — debunks the myths of single-payer system superiority.

Janet Trautwin’s Letter to the Editor Published in Time Magazine.
NAHU’s Executive Vice President and CEO directly takes on Michael Moore and Sicko. The text of her letter is below.

Daniel Weintraub’s Column in the Sacramento Bee. While Weintraub usually writes favorably concerning single payer reform proposals, in this column he writes a thorough critique of the errors in Moore’s film.

On the Fence Films This is independent film maker Stuart Browning’s site with several short films on powerfully illustrating the failings of Canada’s single payer system.

Agents should review these resources prior to June 29th and to make use of them. The tremendous publicity for Sicko will mean local radio stations, community organizations and others will be receptive to hearing alternative views to Michael Moore. Become the expert they want to hear from and get the message out: yes, America’s health care system needs reforming, but what Moore proposes isn’t the way.

Fortunately, Health Underwriters has alternatives. In addition to CAHU’s Healthy Solutions plan, the National Association of Health Underwriters will be unveiling it’s health care reform plan during its national convention in Denver this coming week.Agents have an important perspective on the health care system. We also have a responsibility to share it. I hope these resources help.

The following is Janet Trautwein’s letter to the editor published by Time Magazine on June 6th:
“Filmmaker Michael Moore romanticizes the government-run health-care system in Canada [May 28]. I wonder if he really understands what a single-payer system would mean for Americans. The government would hold a monopoly over health-care coverage, offering one insurance plan with no alternatives. If the government decided to reduce funding or deny coverage for certain medical technologies or procedures, patients would have to forgo their use or pay for it out of pocket. Under the current system, if people are dissatisfied with their plan, they can simply switch insurance carriers. No one denies the moral imperative for reform to provide health-care access to all Americans, but a single-payer system is not the answer.”

Here Comes Michael Moore

Get ready. Michael Moore, the director of Farenheit 911 and other documentaries is taking on America’s health care system. His stated goal for his new film, Sicko, is to do away with insurance companies, turn all health care coverage over to the government and regulate pharmacies as if they were utilities.

The movie will be in theaters everywhere come the end of June and I can’t comment on the details until I’ve seen it (I know that doesn’t stop others, but I’ve never understood how someone can criticize a piece of work they’ve never seen). I have seen the trailer, however, and read interviews Moore has given. It’s clear this film will be like his others: blatantly confrontational, heavily anecdotal, and chock full of “gotcha’s.”

So, saving comments on the content of the film for a after-release post, it seems to me the film will be a two-edged sword. On the one hand it will raise awareness of the need to fix what’s wrong in the current health care system. On the hand, by relying on anecdotes to make its case for reform, it may lead distract from reasoned, thoughtful debate.

The power of movies is immense. They not only help people think, they help them to feel.  Moore is an artist and his use of sight and sound brings his anecdotes home. He makes his anecdotes compelling and motivating.

He’s not alone in this. You won’t see Stuart Browning of On the Fence Films sitting down with Oprah Winfrey or Jay Leno (Moore is already booked). But his short films taking to task the Canadian single-payer system are as devastating as Sicko is likely to be. And like Moore, they are emotionally charged.

Bringing emotion to the health care reform debate is important — but if meaningful solutions are going to emerge it will take thoughtful analysis, vigorous debate among people of good faith with open minds, and the leadership required to make difficult choices. Hopefully the cinematic fireworks sparked by the Moores and Brownings will focus attention and inspire the passion to face up to problems in the health care system. To the extent they distract and polarize, however, they will make reaching a solution harder and the debate uglier.