High Alert Institute



Michael Moore and Our “Sicko” Society

by | Jul 4, 2007

Healthcare professionals across the nation are plopping down $10 for a ticket and another $10 for popcorn and a large bottle of water only to become the immediate recipient of much ribbing from colleagues, even receiving prescriptions for nausea medicine to be taken immediately before the movie:


“If Zofran can handle the nausea from chemo, it can handle Michael Moore.”  


Undeterred, they stride in air conditioned comfort to their seats.  Most healthcare professionals are not great fans of Michael Moore preferring documentaries like Super-Size Me which many still recommend to patients. Mr. Moore’s story telling style is, well let’s say it is not to their tastes.


Within the first moments of the movie, Mr. Moore is attacking the same Heavily Mangled-care Organizations (HMO’s) that frustrate and anger so many healthcare professionals.  Everything that Mr. Moore says about such large organizations as Aetna, Cigna, Humana and Kaiser is true.  Of course in invertible Michael Moore fashion he told only one side of the story, paying only passing homage to the fact that five-sixth of the US population do in fact have healthcare coverage.  Still, Mr. Moore actually makes sense… at first.


Unfortunately, also in an inevitable Michael Moore fashion, he quickly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  A totally incomprehensible detour to a cold war era campaign by the American Medical Association to speak specifically against the evils of socialists and communists in medicine is next juxtaposed against the Clinton era’s attempt at Universal Health Care.  Mr. Moore seems to have missed the fact that now New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton stated emphatically throughout her term as chair of National Healthcare Committee that Universal Health Care was not a socialized healthcare system.  


Mr. Moore also seems to have forgotten the historical context in which the American Medical Association launched its anti-socialist campaign in those early days of the cold war.  Communist fears gripped the nation for over twenty years and every “respectable” professional or fraternal organization “did its part” to combat the so-called Red Menace.  The American Medical Association’s campaign against socialist medicine was a political statement against socialism and communism not against Universal Health Care.  


Returning to the main theme of the movie (corporate greed as the oppressor of the people) Mr. Moore next attacked the profits and policies of the pharmaceutical industry. The donations to prominent congressional members and others in government are enlightening and even entertaining in their presentation, but there was no new news here. Healthcare Professionals, the Food and Drug Administration and even Congress itself has decried these practices for years.


Mr. Moore then takes a brief trip around the existing socialized medicine programs in Canada, Great Britain and France.  He goes to great lengths to describe their advantages, speaking to Americans who believe they have benefited from a socialized medicine system in which they had no need for insurance and no need to pay copay’s.  He also spoke with fully satisfied individuals living in Canada and Great Britain.  


Mr. Moore’s interview with one British doctor was quite enlightening. This physician’s entire education was paid for by his government and his government is generous enough to pay him a salary as a family practitioner equal to that made by a specialist in the United States. Interestingly, this physician believes that his American counterparts make five times his salary when in reality his American colleagues make approximately half his income and they must make student loan payments.  Mr. Moore’s British doctor has these benefits not because a socialized medicine system works better or even pays better but because he was the beneficiary of socialized education through graduate school.  American doctors also labor under student loan payments that often equal their mortgage payments and will do so for a thirty-year period of time.  


Mr. Moore’s tour then took an unusual direction clearly designed to draw publicity rather than make any specific point.  Mr. Moore took several 9/11 survivors and delivered them to Cuba in order to receive treatment for 9/11 related injuries and illnesses. Mr. Moore claims he did this because he had found an American “socialized medicine” system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and just wanted 9/11 heroes to receive the same medical benefits as Al Qaeda. Why not take these heroes to a state prison in Florida? The almost every state correctional institution in the United States, inmates receive the same or better care than the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Again Michael Moore missed the mark. 


Despite these glaring inconsistencies, a glimmer of hope for Mr. Moore’s movie appeared when the Cuban doctors began to touch on the issue of the relationship between the system and the healthcare professional. It seemed that Mr. Moore was finally going to disclose American Healthcare’s greatest shame, the total annihilation of the nurturing relationship between healthcare professionals and their corporate masters. But alas, Michael Moore again shied away from the issue… why?!


The feelings of most healthcare professionals were recently summed by s 45 year nursing veteran when she announced, 


“There is no nursing shortage; there is a hospital nursing shortage.”


She went on to explain that in the home health and non-institutional nursing fields, there is an adequate supply of nurses willing to work for employers who respect and value their services. According to this nurse who had worked in hospitals for much of her career, the problem today is that hospitals and other institutions see nurses and other professionals as replaceable rather than precious. 


“No nurse my age is going to work for some young supervisor who believes that you manage people by threatening them or their license. There are too many jobs out there to deal with that nonsense.”


This veteran nurse struck on the key factor missed by Mr. Moore. As in any customer service industry, it is the relationship between employer and employee that is key to the customer’s experience. 


Nurses are gravitating to non-institutional care despite lower pay because employees care more about the relationships than the money. Veteran nurses remember being respected and appreciated for long hours and selfless dedication. It was not expected or required, it was given freely and accepted graciously. Even in a “materialistic society” people want to be loved and cared for, respected and valued.


There is no nursing shortage, there is a relationship shortage. This is the true problem with corporate healthcare in America.


All and all I will say that Mr.  Moore’s film was an honest review of the current state of the Heavily Mangled-care in the United States.  Greedy insurance companies take from doctors in the form of Malpractice Coverage.  They take from patients in the form denials and restrictive practices.


Sadly, the majority of Mr. Moore’s movie missed the point.  American healthcare will not be served by the conversion to a socialized medicine system.  Quite to the contrary most of the equipments seen in background of Mr. Moore’s movie was invented, designed, manufactured, or funded by the America’s private healthcare industry.  Healthcare professionals know this to be true. The only way to improve American healthcare is to improve the relationships in American healthcare. 


American healthcare would be best served by rebuilding relationships with the most valuable resource in healthcare, the healthcare provider. All those Mr. Moore interviewed told stories of having a favorable relationship with a system which they respected and which respected them. Regardless of whether you are a healthcare professional or a healthcare consumer, the basis of the process of healthcare is a relationship based on mutual respect. The system delivering that healthcare must live by that standard as well. 


  • If the relationship between insurance companies and patients is improved, care will improve. 
  • If the relationship between healthcare corporations and healthcare professionals is improved, care will improve. 
  • If the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and patients is improved, care will improve. 


It is all about the relationships.


Mr. Moore also falls significantly short in failing to make note of the reasons that so many Americans require so much healthcare.  Even a man with only a high school diploma such as Mr. Moore must ask himself if five-sixth of the United States population have health insurance, then why do individuals in other countries live longer than we do.  Americans chose to indulge in fast foods which are too high in salt and fat, drive rather than walk or bicycle for short errands, play video games rather than exercise, and finally watch movies about what others do rather than going out and doing something themselves.  


As healthcare professionals watch the corpulent Michael Moore striding down the streets of London and France being passed by much thinner Europeans, they can not help but be struck by the fact that it is not our healthcare system, but our societal values that are truly “Sicko.” It is time we all put down the popcorn, take our water bottles and go outside to exercise with our children.


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