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Monday, 9 July 2007

America's Shame

US Health Care On Life Support

By Richard Carreño
Bala Cynwyd, Pa:-- America's Shame, of course, is that 50 million of its citizens are without health insurance and/or access to proper health care. To its unabashed discredit, the United States is the only industrialised, Western country that does not provide universal health care. This shocking horror is well known, well documented, but without the widespread currency it needs to have among the populace. Enter Michael Moore's docu-tribe, Sicko.

For those of us who are following the issue, there's really nothing new in Moore's case statement. What he has done, nobly, is to take the cause of universal health care to a new arena of movie-making and one more accessible to the masses. It's comforting everyone can now know that 'socialised medicine' is not the bugaboo with which right-wingers have demagogued us for so long. All the myths and horror stories about universal health-care programmes in Canada, the United Kingdom, and France are also debunked. What we learn, in graphic detail, is how humane these countries are compared to the US, which -- even as the world's richest country and one that spends billions in fighting absurd wars -- deprives its own citizens of the dignity of proper health care.

Tony Benn, Britain's Labour warhorse, is Sicko's 'star, and says it best. The nomenclature is able to divide with fear mongering, creating despair, and enabling us into fearsome financial debt. Other Western countries see a social compact. We see a Darwinian society run amuck.

Moore's case is solid, entertaining, and persuasive. Since this is America, the land of the weak and meek, probably nothing will change.

Sicko does go off the skids, however, toward the movie's conclusion. Using the level of high-quality 'universal' care doled out al-Qaeda prisoners at Gitmo -- and, subsequently, the well-documented top-notch care in Cuba -- as a foil to constrast the woeful state that uninsured Americans receive is a stretch. Nice try.

But, this overarching political statement isn't necessary. Of course, the US already provides universal health care. Just ask the 2 million incarcerated. And there are subtlies that Moore ignores: Massachusetts' new plan, as well as San Francisco's experiment with universal municipal health care.

At the end of the day, Moore is right. The lack of universal health care is uniquely an American problem. (So is America's other Shame, the lack of legalised gun control, a topic that Moore shined a spotlight in an earlier movie, Bowling for Columbine.) The piece-meal approach we have so far adopted to address the health-care crisis -- state by state, children and women first ---- is a scandal in itself.

Here's to docu-tribes! Here's to Michael Moore!

NB: Interested in actually doing something about National Health-Care Insurance for the United States? The Philadelphia Area Committee to Defend Health Care will hold a meeting at 7 pm Tuesday, July 10, at the Penn Newman Center, 3720 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.