Something’s rotten in the state of America Pte Ltd

It’s probably appropriate to watch “Sicko” when I’m feeling… ehm… kinda sick.

I was supposed to go for dragonboat practice today but thankfully it was cancelled since there weren’t enough people for today’s session. So I stayed home, made a nice curry dinner (hey, curry will kill any badass virus!) and watched Michael Moore’s “Sicko”.

But boy did the movie get me riled up! It got me so hot and bothered that I called boyfriend J up to explain why he could worked for a HMO in the past. (Fine, he was not working in a department not even remotely connected to medical care in his HMO company but he was working for the evil empire!)

The movie particularly moved me because I was without health insurance for a good half year in 2007. and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I found myself worrying and making sure I’m not falling sick, at least not in any major way. Thankfully I’m young enough not to really care about major illnesses but it wasn’t a pleasant experience watching my back all the time.

For those who don’t follow Michael Moore’s movies (“Roger and Me”, “Fahrenheit 911”, “Bowling for Columbine” etc), “Sicko” is his latest expose on the health care industry in America. His films have always verged on being (far left) political commentaries on the ills of America – they’re seldom objective, usually inflammatory and always entertainingly over-the-top. In his previous films, he has taken on big business, the firearms industry and the Bush administration.

This time, he takes on the health care insurance companies. His argument is that that America’s private health care system is broken since the emphasis is on profits rather than taking care of the sick.

sicko.jpg

Insurance companies place upon their medical doctors the onus to refuse claims rather than appropriate treatment. These companies happily collect insurance premiums when people are healthy but use convoluted legal technicalities to refuse payment when they fall sick.

Hospitals, on the other hand, have to turn away sick people without insurance and refuse treatment to some even with insurance since specific treatments are not covered by their insurance. The movie chronicles horrific stories of elderly patients driven to secluded neighborhoods in ambulances/taxis and dumped on the curb to die because they didn’t have insurance.

50 million Americans cannot get health insurance because of a long list of health conditions while the 250 million insured Americans facing being denied care since insurance companies go to extraordinary lengths to deny claims.

He then goes on to explore the universal health care system in Canada, France, United Kingdom and even Cuba. Even though it’s largely polemical, the scenes where Moore brings 9-11 workers to Cuba to receive medical treatment they can’t receive in America is particularly moving. Much news have been written on Cuba’s “medical aid” foreign policy but it’s another thing to see their medical professionals portrayed up close and personal.

The movie pointed out very interesting facts about America’s health care – low infant mortality, low life expectancy, high major illness rates. I did some research and apparently Singapore beats America on all levels of health care, there are many articles citing the “Singapore approach” to health care. Can’t keep a Singaporean from feeling smug at this point of time!

However the scene that I’m still smarting from is the one where a group of American expats in France explained to Moore that there is no limited to sick leave in France. Now they are embarrassed, incredulous and even outraged by the idea of a limited sick leave – one lady asked “how can you place a limit on being sick? When you’re sick, you’re sick!”

Oh la la! How French! I bet this lady didn’t feel this way about sick leave when she was working in the states.

And here I’m fretting about falling sick this week since I’m obviously coming down with something during a really busy week at work.

I never thought I would say this (god knows the many hours I berated the French for their lazyass socialist working attitude) but having limitedless sick leave sure sounds nice now.

C’est la vie!

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