As interested as I am in universal access to health care, it may surprise you that I haven’t yet seen “Sicko.” Fact is, I tend to resist seeing movies that everybody thinks I ought to see. I’ve never seen “Passion of the Christ;” but, then, I’ve read the book many times, so that’s little loss. I do think I’ll get around to seeing “Sicko”, though – eventually.
That said, let me bring to your attention a recent interview that used “Sicko” as an opportunity to reflect on the American health care system (or lack thereof). Last Monday, July 9, on “Fresh Air,” Terry Gross interviewed Jonathan Oberlander. Oberlander is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, teaching in the Social Medicine and Political Science programs. He is author of The Political Life of Medicare. He makes some interesting points.
He suggests, for example, that there are other models of national health care systems that we haven’t been looking at. He doesn’t believe that the United States will commit to a single-payer plan, much less truly socialized medicine, as in the models of Canada or Great Britain, respectively. He suggests, instead, that we might look at Germany and Australia, which have incorporated commercial insurance companies into national health care programs
He also points out that in our existing structure (I resist calling it a “system,” and I work in it), requiring standardized procedures of all insurance companies would save a lot of money without affecting health care. As a corollary, he asserts that one of the greatest expenses in health care is in underwriting costs: the time and money spent determining whether the patient qualifies for care, and what care the patient might qualify for.
This is forty minutes well worth your time. There is some consideration and critique of the movie, but it’s primarily an opportunity to reflect on health care in the United States. As we work toward recognizing a right to health care in this country, new voices with new ideas are always welcome.