Congress to blame for high healthcare cost |

Congress to blame for high healthcare cost

Fred Kalhammer

I didn’t much enjoy reading Bill O’Reilly’s review (“Socializing with socialism” in Thursday’s Tribune) of Michael Moore’s latest film, “Sicko,” a documentary about the state of healthcare in the United States and elsewhere. Not that I enjoy much of what O’Reilly writes because of his blatant intellectual dishonesty, never more evident than in this column. In it he has cherry-picked a portion of the film that takes place in Cuba, and then mischaracterized it in order to smear Moore’s cinematic efforts as advocating socialism.

I won’t go into details on this point because I would hope that everyone will go see the movie (now playing at the Horizon). Of course, Michael Moore advances his own point of view in this scathing indictment of the cost and disfunction of the American healthcare system, one that is vastly different from O’Reilly’s unfair and unbalanced take on the movie. For example, the film reveals that, despite the high cost of healthcare in the United States, we rank 38th among the world’s countries when it comes to the quality of healthcare available to its citizens, just ahead of Slovenia and Cuba.

Moore explains that our healthcare costs so much more than anywhere else because our representatives in Congress are vastly more adept at currying favor with the insurance and drug industries than at protecting the interests of their own constituents. He points out that all the sponsors of recent legislation that added prescription drug coverage to Medicare (but prohibited the federal government from negotiating the cost of drugs with the pharmaceutical industry) now work for the drug industry. In fact, the bill’s manager in the House of Representatives now receives the tidy sum of $2 million annually as an industry lobbyist.

In addition to Cuba, Moore also took his cameras to Canada, the United Kingdom and France, the country rated as having the world’s best healthcare system. In none of these countries do private insurers have any role in the provision of healthcare, which is available virtually free of charge to all citizens, except as a component of the taxes they pay. Moore interviewed healthcare providers and recipients in each of those countries, all of whom expressed satisfaction with their systems. It would appear that O’Reilly slept through these parts of the film, however, because he doesn’t mention any of them.

Perhaps O’Reilly’s most egregious assertions are contained in this excerpt: “… the notion of the federal government as a nanny state is a frightening one. This isn’t Sweden with nine million people. America, with 300 million citizens is the most powerful nation on earth because of competition and individual achievement, not because of a benevolent and intrusive federal bureaucracy.” What hogwash! Are Swedes really afraid of their governmental nannies? Speaking of frightened people, what about the nearly 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance? And upon whom would a benevolent federal bureaucracy intrude if healthcare were made universal in this most powerful nation on earth? The obscene profits of insurance and drug companies, perhaps?

“Sicko” is another signal exposé well within the tradition of Michael Moore’s previous award-winning documentaries: “Fahrenheit 911,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger and Me.” So turn off O’Reilly and go see it!

– Fred Kalhammer is a retired Foreign Service officer and Stateline resident.

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