2007-06-18

Film Review: Sicko

The propagandist Michael Moore, perhaps partly responsible for the Bush reelection, has produced a new film. Google's ratings suggest it is being received extremely well. Like all of his work, Sicko appeals much more to emotion than to reason. In seducing the American populace with the conveniences of socialism, he completely whitewashes the costs paid in high taxation, lower economic growth, high unemployment, and reduced technological advancement. Perhaps this is why country after country in Europe has been electing conservative governments; they have learnt the lessons of socialism the hard way. I agree that for poor, unproductive, and unambitious people such as those featured in Sicko, socialism is an absolutely fantastic deal. Goods and services are provided at someone else's expense. Michael Moore would lead one to believe that it is the greed of megacorporations who are responsible for all human suffering in the United States. The problem of unaffordable health care in the United States does not come from competing insurance companies. It is a problem of monopoly.

The American Medical Association, the State union of doctors, maintains medical school quotas and strictly suppresses the licencing of foreign trained doctors. This medical monopoly also maintains the sole ability to prescribe medication. Prescription fraud such as trying to fill a prescription in a higher amount than ordered by a doctor, is a felony punishable by prison sentencing. Doctors tend to prescribe medicines in artificially low quantity so as to encourage more overpriced visits for a refill. On top of this the medicine which is prescribed is sold at a large premium because of the lack of regulation in drug pricing as well as the overprotective intellectual property inherent in the American patent system.

Medical expenses are further inflated by the inordinate costs of doing business. Malpractice insurance is extremely expensive. There is no upper limit to the damages in a medical malpractice suit. Merck was famously ordered to pay USD 253 million for the death of one marathon runner. With 33% cuts, over-educated and overpaid lawyers are all too happy to help recover alleged damages. Lawyers such as John Edwards make fortunes preying upon the misfortunes of others.

There are of course some delightfully positive aspects of the US system. With the supply of doctors kept artificially small, the competition to be one of those doctors is increased so that American doctors, after they have been paid, are some of the best in the world. Maltreated patients do have the recourse to sue. Overprotected intellectual property drives innovation in medicine saving countless lives and improving quality of life in the long term. With drug price regulation in most other countries, America effectively subsidises medicine for the rest of the World.

Unfortunately, Michael Moore does not address any of these real issues. He is long on sob stories and short on understanding. American medicine is no doubt expensive and long overdue for anti-trust and tort reform, but calls for a medical socialist revolution are entirely inappropriate.

2 comments:

Nomad said...

I haven't seen Sicko, but I agree with your analysis on Michael Moore in particular and the American medical system in general. I would further add that the medical system would also probably cost less if the insurance system was shaken up: if more people were offered a wider range of insurance products that were not tied to their place of work. Increasing the range and types of insurance, reducing the incentives for unnecessary visits, increasing the supply of doctors and putting the issuance of malpractice awards in the hands of impartial medical officials rather than gullible juries would go yards to reducing cost.

Michael Moore of course will offer none of that. He is a 21st century PT Barnum and you are right that his previous film probably helped the Bush 04 cause rather than harmed it (it almost made me vote Bush too). Frontline documentaries provide more information on useful topics than his vapid films ever would. He is still a stupid American, no matter how much he rails against rightist ideologues.

Diana said...

well said!

but If I can chose between the states and europe, I'd go for the states. Tax is a form of slavery. and I don't like slavery