Sicko is not about the 47 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, it’s about some of the 250 million who have/had health insurance and in spite of this their lives were ruined. It dispels a lot of the myths espoused by some in America such as long waiting lines, higher taxes and the doctors being paid close to nothing. It explains why HMOs were established and how their primary purpose is to deny claims. Advancement in these companies is based upon how many claims an employee denies and any claims that are actually paid out are seen as failures. Director and writer Michael Moore goes to countries like Canada, England, France and Cuba and talks to citizens of these countries to get their take on their country’s health-care system. He also goes to hospitals and emergency rooms in these countries to get the take of the people there and when he ask “How much do you pay?”, they all laugh at him. Moore sums up the premise of film when he says the rest of the western world practices “We” health-care while Americans practice “Me” health-care.
This is probably one of the most depressing movies ever filmed. Bowling for Columbine doesn’t even hold a candle to the disheartening realizations contained in this film. You will be left with a sick taste in your mouth having been reminded of how disgusting and heartless the USA bottom line policy making is. How sick it is to be imprisoned by the government through healthcare. How the healthcare system will tear down every other joy in the citizen’s life until late life, working 50 hours a week to pay the cost of staying alive, unable to stand against the rich or have the hope left to vote. Thus the propaganda arm of the American Dream prevails.
* * *
George W. Bush: We got issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their… their love with women all across the country.
Adam: [tending his cuts] I don’t have a job. I don’t want to have any more debt out to anybody else. I’m flushing the wound…
Michael Moore: [narrating off-screen] This is Adam. He had an accident. He’s one of the nearly 50 million Americans with no health insurance.
But this film isn’t about Adam. So this is the table saw. It was spinning that way… This is Rick. I was gripping a piece of wood and I grabbed it here and it hit a knot… He sawed off the tops of to of his fingers. …and it was that quick.
His first thought?
I don’t have insurance. Am I gonna have to pay cash for this? $ 2,000, $3,000 or more? Does that mean we’re not gonna get a car? Rick also doesn’t have health coverage. So the hospital gave him a choice. Reattach the middle finger for $60.000. Or do the ring finger for 12.000.
It’s an awful feeling to just try to put a value on your body.
Being a hopeless romantic. Rick chose the ring finger. For the bargain price of 12 grand. The top of his middle finger now enjoys its new home in an Oregon landfill.
I can do that thing where, you know, the old man used to pull the finger off.
Michael Moore: But this movie isn’t about Rick either. Yes. There are nearly 50 million Americans with no health insurance. They pray every day they don’t get sick because 18,000 of them will die this year, simply because they’re uninsured. But this movie isn’t about them. It’s about the 250 million of you who have health insurance. Those of you who are living the American Dream.
It’s moving day for Larry and Donna Smith. They’ve packed everything they own in these to cars. And are driving to Denver, Colorado. To their new home…
Narrator: …in their daughter’s storage room.
This is home, sweet home.
Look at all that stuff.
We’ll get everything organized.
What do we do with the computer?
It stays there. So this is where Heather talked about we might have to put bunk beds. I see what she’s talking about.
Narrator: It wasn’t supposed to end up like this for Larry and Donna. They both had good jobs. She was a newspaper editor. And he was a union machinist. They raised six kids who all went to fine schools like the University of Chicago. But Larry had a heart attack. And then another one. And then another one. And then Donna got cancer. And even though they had health insurance. The copays and deductibles soon added up to the point where they could no longer afford to keep their home.
If somebody told me ten years ago this was gonna happen to us because of healthcare, I would have said, “It’s not possible. ” “Not in the United States. We wouldn’t let that happen to people. “
Are we gonna quit?
No. It’s just hard.
Narrator: They were bankrupt. So they moved in with their daughter.
We’ll get it all figured out. We emptied the dresser so you have a spot. Nice, very nice. Even their son Danny popped in from across town to welcome them to Denver.
What do we do about people like you? – I don’t know, that’s a good question. You’re supposed to pay a deductible for $9,000, I understand. That’s healthcare. What about people like Kathy and I that have to come up there and move you every five years, every two years, every year, – ’cause you don’t have enough money?
That’s what Russell says too. I’m sorry. It’s not what we wanted to have happen in life. And we’re doing what we can to make the change. You don’t know what that feels like inside at 50-some years old, to have to reach out to my 20-something-year-old for help.
It’s gonna be hard for four, five, six, seven months, it’s gonna be hard. I have a feeling of you bring your problems with you no matter where you go. Yeah. But I don’t know what to do about that.
By sheer coincidence. Their daughter’s husband. Paul. Was leaving on a job the very same day they arrived. Paul was a contractor. But there weren’t many jobs lately. So he found work out of town.
I’m sure you’ll keep a telephone conversation. Email you. You’re gonna be just fine, lovies.
Weird situation, isn’t it? – Tell me where Daddy’s going. – Iraq. Why is Daddy going to Iraq?
To do some plumbing. Oh, boy. This I do early in the morning. The first thing I do is I clean here.
At age 79. Frank Cardile should be kicking back on a beach somewhere. But even though he’s insured by Medicare. It doesn’t cover all the cost of the drugs that he and his wife need.
Being that I’m an employee here, my medicine is for free. So that’s why I gotta keep working. Until I die. There is nothing wrong with that. OK. I always gotta keep my ears open because there’s always spillages. Sometimes you get a gallon of milk. Tomato sauce – oh, you’re in trouble. It’ll take a half-hour to clean that up. And I look up on every aisle so as everything is clean. If I see something I pick it up, whether it’s paper or garbage. One day I had the keys in my hand and they went in there. And I had to climb in there to get the keys out. It’s a sad situation. If there are golden years, I can’t find ’em, I’ll tell you that. She had a painkiller for her hip. The girl said, “Frank, this is $ 213.” “What, for a painkiller?”
I didn’t take it.
I backed off. I said, “I gotta come back. ” What’s in them? What’s in these new drugs that they distribute? I don’t believe you need half of the things they tell you. I have never taken medication now, as I’m getting older. I don’t even like to take an aspirin. I do like a little brandy.
I don’t really know how this happened, but the trunk came forward into the back seat.
Narrator: Laura Burnham was in a head-on collision that knocked her out cold. Paramedics got her out of the car and into an ambulance for a trip to the hospital. I get a bill from my insurance company telling me that the ambulance ride was not going to be paid for, because it wasn’t preapproved. I don’t know exactly when I was supposed to preapprove it, you know? Like after I gain consciousness in the car, before I got in the ambulance? I should have grabbed my cellphone off the street and called in the ambulance? I mean, it’s just crazy.
I applied for HealthNet insurance for Jason. They rejected him because of his height and weight. Jason is six feet tall and 130 pounds.
I applied for healthcare through BlueCross BlueShield and they told me that my body mass index was too high. I’m 5′ 1 “, I weigh 175 pounds.
Narrator: I always thought health insurance companies were there to help us. So I posted a note on the internet. Asking people if they had had any similar stories about problems with their insurance company. Within 24 hours. I had over 3700 responses. And by the end of the week. Over 25.000 people had sent me their healthcare horror stories. Some of them decided not to wait for me to get back to them. Like Doug Noe. Who took matters into his own hands. Without my permission. His daughter was nine months old when they discovered she was going deaf. His health insurance company. CIGNA. Said they’d pay for an implant in only one of her ears. According to the letter they sent. It’s experimental for her to hear in two ears. If a cochlear implant is good for one ear, it doesn’t even make any sense that it wouldn’t be good for the second ear. Especially when a child is just starting to learn how to talk, she has to learn from both sides of her head. That’s when he sat down to write CIGNA a letter. This is to CIGNA. “Noted filmmaker Michael Moore is in the process of gathering information for his next film. ” “I’ve sent information concerning CIGNA’s lack of caring for its policy holders. ” “Has your CEO ever been in a film before?”
Narrator: Before he knew it. He received a call on his voice mail from CIGNA. Tuesday. 8.:54 am. Obviously all this worked because Annette is going to get her second implant in July.
“Dear Mike. I work in the industry. ” “I work for an HMO.” I started to get hundreds of letters of a different sort from people who work inside the healthcare industry. They’d seen everything and they were fed up with it. “Health insurance companies suck. Flat suck. “
Narrator: Like Becky Malke. Who was in charge of keeping sick people away from one of America’s top insurance companies.
Becky Malke, Health insurance salesperson: I worked in a call center, so people call in and ask for insurance quotes. There are certain preexisting conditions, basically industry-wide, that will not be covered – diabetes, heart disease, certain forms of cancer. If you have these conditions, you are likely not going to get your health insurance.
How long is this list of conditions that make you ineligible?
It would be a really long list. It would be a long list. It could wrap around this house. Sometimes you know they’re gonna be declined at the end of the application, and they’re like… God, like one time I had a couple, and they were so happy to get… I’m gonna cry. They were so happy that they were… I took them through this application. And the husband was late for work. And the wife said to him, “Don’t worry, baby, it’s gonna be OK.” “We have health insurance now. ” And when I looked, I could tell they were gonna get declined because of their health conditions. And they were so happy. I thought, “God, they’re gonna get that call in a couple of weeks telling them that they’re not eligible for insurance.” I just felt so bad ’cause I just really thought and I knew and I couldn’t say anything to them. I just felt like crap. That’s why I’m such a bitch on the phone to people, because I don’t wanna get to know them, I don’t wanna know about their lives, I just wanna get in and out, and get done with it ’cause I can’t take the stress of it.
Narrator: In spite of Becky being a bit of a pain on the phone. A quarter billion Americans are still able to get health insurance. Let’s meet some of these happy insured customers. Maria has BlueShield. And Diane. Horizon BlueCross. BCS insures Laurel. And Caroline has CIGNA. And it’s a good thing that they’re all fully covered.
I ended up being diagnosed with retroperitoneal cancer.
Breast cancer. Brain tumor on the right temporal lobe.
Narrator: As they were insured. They got the red-carpet treatment at the doctor’s office.
She requested for me to see a neurologist. The way they would treat it was to remove it. Surgery was scheduled for December 9. There is a test that you can take that will show whether or not you would benefit from chemo.
Narrator: They got their treatment. But not before battling their insurance companies. Investigated whether or not this was a preexisting condition. “It’s not medically necessary. ” They claim that it’s experimental. “We don’t consider that life-threatening.”
Narrator: Diane died from her non life-threatening tumor. Laurel’s cancer is now spread throughout her body. Her “experimental test” proved that Caroline needed chemo. While vacationing in Japan. Maria became ill and got the MRI that BlueShield of California had refused to approve. The doctors in Japan told her she had a brain tumor. BlueShield had said repeatedly she didn’t have a tumor. That’s when she said: “Well. I’m pretty sure I have a lawyer. “
March 13, 2003. I’m gonna direct your attention to exhibit one. Please describe for me what it is. It is a denial for referral to an ophthalmologist.
Is it your signature on this?
Yes. I’d like to direct your attention to exhibit two. This is a denial of a request for referral for a magnetic resonance imaging test of the brain.
It has your signature?
Yes. Directing your attention to exhibit three. Please read this document. This is a denial of a referral to a neurosurgeon. Can you explain for me how you came to sign the denial letter? This is a standard signature put on all denial letters.
Is it your signature or a stamp?
That is a stamp. Did you ever see a denial letter before your signature was stamped on it? No, but the denial letters are fundamentally the same. The denial letters that are sent out… – The answer is no. – No. All right. The definition of a good director was somebody who saves the company money.
Narrator: Dr. Linda Peeno was a medical reviewer for Humana. She left her job because she didn’t like their way of doing business.
I was told when I started that I had to keep a 10% denial. Then they were giving us reports weekly that would have all the cases we reviewed, the percent approved and the percent denied. And our actual percentage denial rate. Then there would be another report that compared me to all the other reviewers. The doctor with the highest percent of denials was gonna get a bonus.
Really? So you, as a doctor, working for the HMO, if you denied more people healthcare, you got a bonus? That was how they set it up. Any payment for a claim is referred to as a medical loss. That’s the terminology the industry uses. I mean, when you don’t spend money on somebody, you deny their care, or you make a decision that brings money in and you don’t have to spend it, it’s a savings to the company.
Narrator: This is Tarsha Harris. BlueCross didn’t deny her her treatment. And actually approved her operation. But then they discovered that, in the distant past, she had had a yeast infection. Apparently it’s common. Men, women can get a yeast infection. So I was prescribed the yeast infection cream, general cream, and it went away. She later applied for health insurance and that’s what you’re supposed to be disclosing – serious ailments. The yeast infection is not a serious ailment. There was nothing she could have done. It wasn’t until they were gonna have to spend money that they looked. If they’d taken five minutes and wanted to clear up the yeast infection, they could’ve looked at her records or talked to her doctor.
Narrator: Because of the undisclosed yeast infection. BlueCross dropped Tarsha Harris. She thinks she’s put this behind her. And then BlueCross changes their mind, tells the doctors, “We’re taking the money back, go get the money from Tarsha.”
The fact of the matter is it was a yeast infection, that’s all it was. I’m still a little bitter because I don’t trust insurance companies now. To me, it seems they’re always gonna be looking for a way out. What happened to helping the person that’s sick? Don’t make their problems worse.
Narrator: This is Lee Einer. If they weren’t able to weed you out in the application process. Or deny you the care your doctor said you needed. And somehow ended up paying for the operation. They send in Lee. Their hitman. His job is to get the company’s money back any way he can. All he has to do is find one slip-up on your application. Or a preexisting condition you didn’t know you had.
Lee Einer: We’re gonna go after this like it’s a murder case. And I mean the whole unit dedicated to going through your health history for the last five years, looking for anything that would indicate that you concealed something, you misrepresented something, so that they can cancel the policy or jack the rates so high that you can’t pay them. And if we couldn’t find anything you didn’t disclose on the application, you can still get hit with a preexisting denial, because you don’t even have to have sought medical treatment for it. In some states, it’s legal to have a prudent person preexisting condition. And that’s a mouthful, I know, but what that says is if prior to your insurance kicking in, you had any symptom which would incline a normally prudent person to have sought medical care, then the condition of which that symptom was a symptom is excluded. I know! It’s labyrinthine, isn’t it? But that’s how it works. They’re supposed to be even-handed, but with an insurance company, it’s their frigging money! So it’s not unintentional, it’s not a mistake, it’s not an oversight, you’re not slipping through the cracks. Somebody made that crack and swept you towards it. And the intent is to maximize profits. Looking back, I don’t know that I killed anybody. Did I do harm in people’s lives? Yeah. Hell, yeah. I haven’t worked for insurance companies for a long time, and I don’t think that really serves to atone for my participation in that mess. I am glad I’m out of it, though.
Narrator: Julie Pierce was struggling to get care for her husband Tracy. Who was suffering from kidney cancer. Julie works in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Kansas City. Missouri. Which provided her family with health insurance.
Every month, there was a new drug that the doctor wanted to try. My insurance denied it. One letter might say, “not a medical necessity,” one letter might say, “it’s not for this particular type of cancer,” and they denied it. Then we came up with the bone marrow. It has showed to stop it, sometimes to completely get rid of it. Tracy’s doctors said this treatment had been successfully tried on many other patients. If one of Tracy’s brothers turned out to be a suitable donor. There were promising bone marrow treatments for beating Tracy’s cancer.
Two weeks later, the bone marrow nurse at KU called me and she goes: “We’ve got the results back. His youngest brother is a perfect donor match. ” We were ecstatic. You know, I think that’s the happiest I had seen him… in a while. So we submitted it and they denied it. Said it was “experimental. ” So I found out that there is a board of trustees over our medical plan that actually work at my hospital. And they are the final decision-makers on what gets approved and what doesn’t.
Narrator: Julie and her husband and their son. Tracy Junior. Demanded a meeting with the health plan’s board of trustees. The very people who had the power to approve their claim. They told Julie that they were sympathetic to her situation.
I said, “Your sympathy does me no good when I’m burying him next year. ” And I told them, I said if I was… Bruce van Cleve was our CEO. I said, “I bet if it was Bruce van Cleve’s wife, it would get approved. ” “No, it’s nothing like that. ” I said, “Or maybe if my husband was white. ” And I got up and walked out of the room. When we got home, I found him up in the bathroom. And I knocked on the door and said, “What are you doing in there?” “Nothing. ” I opened the door ’cause usually he’ll say: “What do you think I’m doing in here?” And he was sitting in there and he was crying. And he said, “Why me? I’m a good person. ” And I said, “But we’re not done fighting this. ” “We’re strong, yeah. ” And then he said… You know, he goes, “I can see now that I’m gonna die. ” He said, “I can leave everything, but I don’t want to leave you and Tracy. ” The doctor told me he would die in three weeks. And… On January 13th, which was my birthday, he went to sleep. And he died five days later, here at home. He was my best friend. He was my soul mate. He was my son’s father. I mean, we were to grow old together. They took away everything that matters. I wanna know why, why my husband? Why wasn’t he given the chance to live? You preach these vision and values that we care for the sick, the dying, the poor. That we’re a healthcare that leaves no one behind. You left him behind. You didn’t even give him a start. It was as if he was nothing. And I want them to have a conscience about it. And I don’t think they do. I don’t think it has fazed them one bit. At all.
Narrator: There was one person in the healthcare industry who did have a conscience. Dr. Linda Peeno. A former medical reviewer at Humana.
Linda Peeno: My name is Linda Peeno. I am here today to make a public confession. In the spring of 1987, as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would have saved his life, and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this, because, in fact, what I did was I saved the company a half a million dollars for this. And, furthermore, this particular act secured my reputation as a good medical director, and it insured my continued advancement in the healthcare field. I went from making a few hundred dollars a week as a medical reviewer to an escalating six-figure income as a physician executive. In all my work, I had one primary duty, and that was to use my medical expertise for the financial benefit of the organization for which I worked. And I was told repeatedly that I was not denying care, I was simply denying payment. I know how managed care maims and kills patients. So I’m here to tell you about the dirty work of managed care. And I’m haunted by the thousands of pieces of paper on which I have written that deadly word – “denied. ” Thank you.
Narrator: How did we get to the point of doctors at health insurance companies actually being responsible for the deaths of patients? Who invented this system? How did this all begin? Where did the HMO start? Thanks to the wonders of magnetic tape. We know.
I am proposing today a new national health strategy. The purpose of this program is simply this – I want America to have the finest healthcare in the world, and I want every American to be able to have that care when he needs it.
Narrator: The plan hatched between Nixon and Edgar Kaiser worked. In the ensuing years. Patients were given less and less care… Bigger logjams at the nearby hospital and less quality medical care. Been here about 18 hours, since 7:00 this morning. What looks cramped and unsightly can also be dangerous.
Narrator: …while health insurance companies became wealthy. The system was broken. 37 million Americans are without protection against catastrophic illness. The losers are the poor. Who may now postpone urgent healthcare until it’s too late.
Narrator: This went on for years. Until this man rode into town. Bringing with him his little lady. Sassy. Smart. Sexy. Some men couldn’t handle it. Today I am announcing the formation of the President’s Task Force on National Health Reform, chaired by the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Narrator: Hillary Clinton decided to make healthcare for everyone her top priority. Universal coverage now. It will not depend upon where you work, whether you work, or if you have a preexisting condition. Healthcare that can never be taken away. Some Republicans complain Mrs. Clinton is getting a free ride. It’s fairly risky business what President Clinton did, to put his wife in charge of some big policy program.
And while I don’t share the chairman’s joy at our holding hearings on a government-run healthcare system, I do share his intention to make the debate and the legislative process as exciting as possible. – I’m sure you will do that, Mr. Armey. – We’ll do the best we can. – You and Dr. Kevorkian, I think. I have been told about your charm and wit, and let me say… Reports on your charm are overstated – and reports on your wit are understated.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Narrator: She drove Washington insane. Do you want the government to control your healthcare?
You won’t have the choice of your own doctors.
Less control for you and your family.
When your mama gets sick, she might talk to a bureaucrat instead of a doctor.
This is a total mess, and it’s about to get messier.
Not this bureaucratic, socialistic plan that they have.
What really amounts to a giant social experiment.
Narrator: Ooh! Socialized medicine. Nothing put more fear in us than the thought of that. And the chief fearmongers against socialized medicine have always been the good doctors of the American Medical Association.
This would put the government smack into your hospital, defining services, setting standards, establishing committees, calling for reports, deciding who gets in and who gets out. After all, the government has to treat everyone fair and equal, don’t you know? Take us all the way down the road to a new system of medicine for everybody.
Narrator: Yes. Medicine for everyone. The AMA didn’t want that. And to drive the point home further. They held thousands of coffeeklatsches all over the country. Where they invited their neighbors to come and listen to a record made by a well-known actor on the evils of socialized medicine.
Ronald Reagan: My name is Ronald Reagan. One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people. Has been by way of medicine. The doctor begins to lose freedoms. It’s like telling a lie. And one leads to another. A doctor decides he wants to practice in one town. The government says to him. “You can’t live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. ” All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his methods. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country. Until one day. We will awake to find that we have socialism.
The White House said to tone down the rhetoric. Reacting to burning an effigy of Hillary Clinton.
Narrator: The times may have changed. But the scare tactics hadn’t. The healthcare industries spent over a hundred million dollars to defeat Hillary’s healthcare plan. And they succeeded.
And I want now to introduce to you the president, because he loves the Easter egg roll.
Narrator: For the next seven years in the White House. She wasn’t allowed to bring it up again.
Is anybody here older than two?
Narrator: A decade and a half went by. And still America had no universal health plan. The United States slipped to number 37 in healthcare around the world. Just slightly ahead of Slovenia. But that’s understandable. Because Congress was busy with other matters.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to offer congratulations to the confectioners at Just Born Incorporated, as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of their most recognized and celebrated products, not to mention my daughter’s favorite, Marshmallow Peeps.
Narrator: And thus. The healthcare industry went unchecked into the 21 st century.
Humana more than doubles its fourth quarter profit, lifts its earning for the year…
United Health has tripled its share prices.
Narrator: Making obscene profits…
…better-than-expected earnings. There’s a lot of wealthy shareholders out there. Are they willing to share some of that wealth?
Narrator: …turning their CEOs into billionaires. And skirting the law whenever they wanted. But their biggest accomplishment was buying our United States Congress.
This is Washington at work. Lobbying has become so brazen…
Narrator: With four times as many healthcare lobbyists than there are members of Congress. They even managed to buy off old foes. For her silence, Hillary was rewarded. And she became the second largest recipient in the Senate of healthcare industry contributions.
We’ve given the entire healthcare system over to the insurance industry. And they have total control.
Narrator: Well. Not total control. The drug companies like to buy their members of Congress too. Here’s what it costs to buy these men. And this woman. This guy. And this guy. And him too.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.
Narrator: And the biggest check was saved for last. Why did they hand out all this cash? They wanted a bill passed – a bill to help seniors with their prescriptions.
Let there be no mistake about it. Republicans love their mothers, their fathers and their grandparents as much as anybody else on this hill, and we’re gonna take care of them in this country.
Narrator: Of course. It was really a bill to hand over 800 billion of our tax dollars to the drug and health insurance industry. By letting the drug companies charge whatever they wanted. And making the private health insurance companies the middleman. Everybody was going to get their cut. The man they appointed to get the job done was congressman Billy Tauzin. He was the right man for the job because he had a secret weapon.
Billy Tauzin: There’s no one in this house loves their mother more than I love my mother. I challenge you on that, sir. Nobody in this body that loves their mother any more or any less than any one of us. I love that woman. Do you think for a second you love your moms and dads any more than we love ours? Do you think Republicans and Democrats who will vote… Do you really believe that, Mr. Stoddard? God bless you.
Narrator: Oh. They all loved their mothers. It’s just that they didn’t love our mothers as much.
Now I’m honored and pleased to sign this historic piece of legislation – the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.
Narrator: What they didn’t tell us was that the elderly could end up paying more for their prescriptions than they did before. Over to thirds of senior citizens could still pay over $ 2.000 a year. And when it was over, 14 congressional aids who worked on the bill quit their jobs on the Hill and went to work for the healthcare industry. As did one congressman.
# ‘Cause I’ve got a golden ticket…
Narrator: Billy Tauzin left Congress to become the CEO of PhRMA. The drug industry lobby. For a salary of $ 2 million a year. Oh. It was a happy day in Washington. Many Americans knew they were never going to see universal healthcare. And that’s why some of them decided to look elsewhere for help.
We’re driving across the Detroit river. Back there is the Renaissance Center, you can see it. General Motors’ headquarters, downtown Detroit, the skyline. You get a really nice view from driving over the bridge.
Narrator: This is Adrian Campbell. A single mother. Who at the age of 22 came down with cancer.
I got cervical cancer and I was denied through the insurance company. They said, “We’re not paying for it because you’re 22 and you don’t have… ” “You shouldn’t be having cervical cancer. You’re too young. “
Narrator: Forced into debt. But now cancer free. Adrian was fed up with the American healthcare system. She had a new plan.
I have everything ready before I even hit the border. I got my passports ready, I got my money out. It’s three dollars and 25 cents to get across one way. And I got everything just sitting up here on my visor just ready to go. Aurora, be very quiet.
Where do you live?
That’s not on, right?
Narrator: She may live in Michigan. But ten blocks across the border. Adrian becomes a Canadian.
How long have you been living here?
Three months? A couple. I haven’t applied for the OHIP card yet. – I still have mine.
It takes ten minutes.
That’s fine, I don’t mind. OK, thank you. I put down Kyle’s address at the clinic, and when they ask, you know, what my relationship is, I put down that I was his common-law partner. I don’t like to lie and I don’t like liars. It’s little white lies, but it’s… You know, I’m saving the money.
You don’t bring a checkbook when you go to the hospital here. It’s provided to us. It’s something you don’t have to worry about or go out of your way to get. Stress free.
They called the cops.
Narrator: The presence of our camera alerted the clinic that something was up.
And I don’t think I’m gonna get seen now. So I have another idea. I’m gonna go down to the other clinic. There is a clinic down… one that we passed. The police showed up over there. Look. Yes.
Narrator: What Adrian was doing was illegal. But we’re Americans. We go into other countries when we need to. It’s tricky. But it’s allowed.
It’s kind of frustrating having… I mean… Just get married and that’d solve everything – she’d be covered.
Americans marry Canadians just for the healthcare!
I’m being used.
Narrator: Sounds like a good idea. See if it works. Start something. Start a trend.
In Canada they give everybody free healthcare. – Doesn’t it work up there?
No, unfortunately it doesn’t. We wait months to get treatment you can get in a week or a few days here.
In Canada you have to wait nine to ten months for bypass surgery.
Many Canadians believe it’s the healthcare system itself that’s truly sick. They pay their doctors less. A surgeon can only do a certain number of operations each year. With only so many expensive new pieces of equipment.
It’s easier for your cat or dog to receive an MRI here in America.
You die of cancer waiting for chemo ’cause all of Ottawa has one chemo machine.
If you think socialized medicine is a good idea, ask a Canadian.
Narrator: So I thought who better to ask than my Canadian relatives. Bob and Estelle. But they wouldn’t cross the border into America. They wanted me to meet them at Sears. In Canada. What are you guys doing here?
We’re buying insurance.
We’re going to the States to see you. Right, that’s just across the river. Yeah. You wouldn’t go over to see us in Michigan for a couple of hours without insurance? No, we wouldn’t. We’re just adamant about it. We would not do it. If somebody punches us in the mouth or something, something like that… You don’t want to get caught in the American health system thing? We have nothing against Americans or America, or anything like that at all.
We’re a nice and simple people.
Not very simple, but certainly very nice. I decided to explore their anti-American views further. Over some fine Canadian cuisine. We have a friend who went to Hawaii. And he sustained a head injury while he was there. And before he was well enough to come home, he had chalked up a bill of over $600,000. So what middle-class Canadian could absorb that? I guess I feel bad that you would have to worry about something like that. We’re not criticizing your country, we’re just giving you the facts, that we could not afford to be without insurance.
Even for a day?
Even for a day. To prove their point even further. They sent me over to a local golf course to talk to Larry Godfrey. Who had a golfing accident while on vacation in Florida. I could hear a noise and feel a pain, and the tendon snapped off this bone here that holds the bicep in place. So this bicep muscle was released, like on an elastic, and it ended up here on my chest. – The muscle ended up in your chest?
Right. Ended up here. Like all good golfers. Larry finished his round before seeking medical attention. That’s when he got the bad news. I wasn’t too worried as I had out-of-country insurance, but when he told me it was 23 or 24,000, then I….
Dollars, yes. So if you’d stayed in the United States, this would have cost you $ 24,000? Instead, you went back to Canada, and Canada paid your total expenses?
Paid for the operation. It cost you?
Zero. Zero. Zero. I’m wondering why you expect your fellow Canadians, who don’t have your problem, why should they, through their tax dollars, have to pay for a problem you have? Because we would do the same for them. It’s just the way it’s always been and it’s the way we hope it’ll always be. Right, but if you just had to pay for your problem, and don’t pay for everybody else’s problem, just take care of yourself? Well, there are a lot of people who aren’t in a position to be able to do that. And somebody has to look after them. Are you a member of the Socialist Party?
Green Party? No. Well, actually, I’m a member of the Conservative Party. Is that bad? –
Well, it’s just a little confusing.
Well… It shouldn’t be. I think that… Where medical matters are concerned, it wouldn’t matter in Canada what party you were affiliated with, if any. But, to us, as we look across the river here, you know, why don’t you think we don’t believe that? What’s wrong on this issue with us? I guess the powers that be don’t share our beliefs that healthcare ought to be universal. I mean, Canadians didn’t until we met up with a guy named Tommy Douglas, who pretty much changed everyone’s mind. – One guy?
One guy, yeah. One guy did it, he…
Can he come over and visit us?
He’s dead, unfortunately. In fact, he was… He’s just most recently been revered as Canada’s singular most important person.
We think so much of…
You mean in your history? In our whole history.
More than your first prime minister?
Absolutely, yeah. Even more than Wayne Gretzky.
More than Céline Dion?
Great singer. More than Céline, yeah.
More than Rocky and Bullwinkle?
Maybe. As the blade went through, it caught the glove I was wearing and it sliced through the entire group of fingers, completely taking them off. And I realized that I needed help immediately. Obviously, putting on amputated fingers or arms or limbs is one of the more dramatic things we can do. If you’re looking at five fingers, you’re looking at a 24-hour operation. There actually was four surgeons, as well as all the nurses and two different anesthetists to carry out an operation of that magnitude. When Brad came in, we didn’t have to worry about whether he could afford it. He needed help and we could concentrate on the best way to bring him through it. I met this American, he’d cut off the ends of two of his fingers with a saw. So when he arrived at the hospital, they told him one finger’s gonna cost $60,000, and the other one was gonna be $12,000. He had to choose which finger he could afford. Down. Bend the long finger down. We’ve never told someone that they couldn’t put a finger back on because the system wouldn’t allow it. I’m very glad I work within a system that allows me the freedom to look after people, and not have to make choices like that. It seems nothing we were told about the Canadian system was true. Maybe I was just in the wrong part of town. So I went across the city to a crowded hospital waiting room. How long did you have to wait here to get help? – 20 minutes. – 45 minutes.
I got helped right away.
You can see how crowded this is. They really do an amazing job. Did you have to get permission to come to this hospital?
No. We can go anywhere we want. You don’t have to get it preapproved by your insurance company?
Oh, heavens, no.
Can you choose your doctor?
What’s your deductible?
I don’t think we have any. I don’t know. I don’t think there’s any, as far as I know.
So what did this cost?
Nothing. We know in America people pay for their healthcare, but I guess we don’t understand that, ’cause we don’t have to deal with that. And we’re dealing with Parkinson’s, stroke, heart attack. We’re very, very lucky. Really we are. I mean, we complain. People complain about everything, right?
Right, you’re Canadian.
But on the whole, it’s a fabulous system for making sure that the least of us and the best of us are taken care of. It turns out that Canadians live three years longer than we do. That’s not hard to believe when you meet fellow Americans like Erik. # Oh, England, here we go Erik Turnbow of Olympia. Washington. Saved up his whole life so that he could visit the famed Abbey Road crosswalk in London. But it wasn’t enough for Erik to just walk across the road like The Beatles did. He had to do it his own special way. Here’s Erik, about to walk on his hands across Abbey Road. Ready? Ugh! Try it again.
Are you in pain?
Yeah. The British hospital didn’t charge Erik anything for his stay. And only about ten bucks for all the way-cool drugs they gave him.
You’re all slung up.
I’m gonna be OK. I decided to go to Great Britain to find out how a hospital stay could be free. And drugs could cost only ten dollars. If I come in here and I have a prescription and it requires 30 pills, how much is that? It’s L6.65. That’s the standard charge. L6.65? So that’s what? Ten dollars or so? – Yes.
What if I needed 60 pills, how much is it? – Same charge. – 120 pills? – L6.65 still. – It doesn’t matter how many pills? – No. – What if it’s an HIV drug or a cancer drug? Still L6.65. If they are under 16 or over 60, they’re automatically exempt. So only a working adult who earns enough money pays the L6.65? Everybody else gets medication free?
No money being exchanged here?
There’s no money being exchanged?
I’m over 60. We don’t pay.
What’s the purpose of the cash register? I’m just wondering where’s the bread and the milk and the candy in here? I can’t pick up any laundry detergent here?
No. I haven’t been trained for that many years to be selling detergents, so no.
* * *
Narrator: I next went to a state-run hospital. Operated by the National Health Service.
I’m due in seven weeks and I get six months off, paid. And then I can have six months off unpaid as well, so I’m actually taking a year.
Well, that sounds like a luxury where I’m from. Oh, really, it’s not like that in the US? No? Not at all, no? So what do you pay for a stay here? No one pays. They were asking how do people pay. I said there isn’t… You don’t, you just leave. It’s national insurance. There’s no bill at the end of it, as it were.
Narrator: Even with insurance. There’s bound to be a bill somewhere. – So where’s the billing department? – There isn’t a billing department. There’s no such thing. What did they charge for that baby?
You gotta pay before you can get out? – No. This is NHS. – No, no. Everything is on NHS. You know, it’s not America.
Narrator: Maybe I’d have better luck in the part where things get seriously expensive. This guy broke his ankle. How much will this cost him? The emergency room visit. He’ll have some huge bill when he’s done, right? Here… NHS, everything is free. I’m asking about hospital charges and you’re laughing. I was never asked this question in the emergency department, that’s why.
Narrator: I was starting to fall for this “everything is free” bit. And then I discovered this. So this is where people come to pay their bill when they’re done staying here? No, this is the NHS hospital, so you don’t pay the bill. You get to just go home? Why does it say “cashier” here if people don’t have to pay a bill? All we have is a little man who stands behind a counter and he gives people money if they’ve had to pay for transport. Those who have reduced means get their travel expenses reimbursed. Thank you. So in British hospitals. Instead of money going into the cashier’s window. Money comes out. The criteria for letting you out are not if you’ve paid, the criteria are, are you fit to go and are you going somewhere safe? Clearly. I was just the butt of a joke here. What I needed was a good old-fashioned American who would have some understanding.
I first came to London in 1992. And we just ended up staying and we had three children here. Well, I had them all on the NHS, which is the British National Health Service. I think, like a lot of Americans, assumed that a socialized medicine was just bottom of the rung treatment, that the only way would be horrible and it would be like the Soviet Union. I mean, that’s kind of how…
And it’s terrible that that’s what I thought.
Narrator: That’s what I thought. Too. After having a baby. It’s right back to the wheat fields.
And then it occurred to me that back home in America. We’ve socialized a lot of things. I kind of like having a police department and fire department and the library. And I got to wondering. Why don’t we have more of these free. Socialized things. Like healthcare?
When did this whole idea that every British citizen should have a right to healthcare?
Well, if you go back, it all began with democracy. Before we had the vote all the power was in the hands of rich people. If you had money, you could get healthcare, education, look after yourself when you were old. And what democracy did was to give the poor the vote. And it moved power from the marketplace to the polling station. From the wallet to the ballot. And what people said was very simple. They said, “In the 1930s, we had mass unemployment. ” “But we don’t have unemployment during the war.” “If you can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t we have it by building hospitals, schools, recruiting nurses and teachers?” If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people. Right. This leaflet that was issued was very, very straightforward.
What year was this?
This was 1948. “Your new National Health Service begins on the 5th of July. ” “What is it? How do you get it?” “It will provide you with all medical, dental and nursing care. ” “Everyone, rich or poor, man, woman or child, can use it or any part of it. ” “There are no charges, except for a few special items. ” “There is no insurance qualifications, but it is not a charity. ” “You are paying for it mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness. ” Now, somehow, the few words sum the whole thing up.
Narrator: I was amazed when he said this all started in 1948. The British had come out of a devastating experience through World War II. The country was destroyed and nearly bankrupt. They had nothing. In just one eight-month period, over 42.000 civilians lost their lives. What we went through in to hours on 911. They went through nearly every single day. Remember how we all felt after 911? All of us pulling together? I guess that’s how they felt. And the first way that they decided to pull together after the war was to provide free medical care for everyone.
Even Mrs. Thatcher said, “The National Health Service is safe in our hands. ” It’s as non-controversial as votes for women. Nobody could say, “Why should women have the vote?” now. People wouldn’t have it, they wouldn’t in Britain. They wouldn’t accept the deterioration or destruction of the National Health Service. If Thatcher or Blair said, “I’m going to dismantle national healthcare… ” There would have been a revolution.
A report from the AMA into the health of 55- to 64-year-olds says Brits are far healthier than Americans. For every illness that we looked at, Americans had more of it than English. Cancer. Heart disease. Hypertension. Strokes. Lung disease. All significantly higher for Americans. Even the poorest people in England with all the environmental factors that give them the worst health in the country can expect to live longer than the wealthiest people in America.
Narrator: I was wondering, though. What’s it like for the doctors here in Britain. Who have to live under this kind of state control?
And you’re a family doctor?
Yeah, I suppose we’d call them GPs or general practitioners here. – Right, so you have a family practice? – Yeah, it’s an NHS practice. We have nine doctors in that practice.
Paid for by the government?
You work for the government? You’re a government-paid doctor. A patient comes to you. Before you treat them, do you have to call the government insurance company before you treat them?
No, I don’t deal with money at all on an everyday basis.
Have you ever had to say no to someone who was sick and needed help?
Have you heard of anyone being in the hospital and being removed because they couldn’t pay their bill?
No, never. And I wouldn’t want to work in that system.
So working for the government, you probably have to use public transport?
No. I have a car that I use and I drive to work.
An old beater? You live in a rough part of town?
I live in a terrific part of town. It’s called Greenwich. It’s a lovely house. It’s a three-story house. How many other families have to live with you? There’s four bedrooms for my wife and my son. It’s just the three of us there.
How much did you pay for that?
£550,000. Yes, almost. So, a million dollars? You’re a government-paid doctor on a national health insurance healthcare plan, – and you live in a million-dollar home?
Yes. – I think my friends think we do quite well. – Really? How well do you do? I earn around £85,000, including pension.
£85,000 a year. And that includes pension that they would pay in to me. They probably earn just over £100,000 within my practice.
£100,000? So that’s almost $ 200,000?
Yes, absolutely. The money that we earn, we get paid by what we do. So the better we do for our patients, then the more we get paid.
What do you mean?
There’s a new system. And in that new system, if the most number of your patients have low blood pressures, or you get most of your patients to stop smoking, or you get your patients to have mental health reviews if they’re unwell, or low cholesterols, then you get paid more. This year, if you get more people that are your patients to stop smoking, you’ll get more money, you’ll earn more?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
So doctors in America do not have to fear having a universal healthcare?
No. I think if you want to have two or three million-dollar homes and four or five nice cars and six or seven nice televisions, then maybe, yeah, you need to practice somewhere where you can earn that. But I think we live comfortably here. London is an expensive city, but I think we live comfortably.
You’re getting by OK on the million-dollar home, the Audi, and the flat-screen TV?
Yeah, we’re coping with those.
I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world. Far more revolutionary than socialist ideas, or anybody else’s idea. Because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of your community. And this idea of choice which capital talks about, “you’ve got to have a choice,” choice depends on the freedom to choose. If you’re shackled with debt, you don’t have a freedom to choose.
It seems it benefits the system if the average person is shackled with debt.
People in debt become hopeless, and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say everyone should vote, but I think if the poor in Britain or the United States voted for people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want it to happen. So keeping people hopeless and pessimistic… See, I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. And I think there’s an element in the thinking of some people: “We don’t want people to be educated, healthy and confident, because they would get out of control. ” The top 1 % of the world’s population own 80% of the world’s wealth. It’s incredible that people put up with it, but they’re poor, they’re demoralized, they’re frightened. And therefore, they think perhaps the safest thing to do is to take orders and hope for the best.
And hope for the best is what we do. Right from the moment we’re born. We’ve got the worst infant mortality rate in the western world. A baby born in El Salvador has a better chance of surviving than a baby born in Detroit. But it gets better when we go to school. Classrooms with 40 students. Schools with no labs. No wonder the majority of our adults can’t find Britain on a map. But that’s OK. There’s always college. By the time we graduate. Our ass is so in hock. We’re in debt before our first job. I’m at about… we’ll say about $35,000 in debt. That’s for my third year in college. You’ll be the employee they’re looking for – one who needs this job. 3,904, 3,905… What employer wouldn’t employ someone thousands of dollars in debt. Because they won’t cause any trouble? In addition to paying off your college debt. You need a job with health insurance. It would be horrible to lose that job. Wouldn’t it? You can always quit, you know. There’s no law that says you have to work here. If that one job doesn’t pay all the bills. Don’t worry. You can get another one. And another one. And another one. I work three jobs, and I feel like I contribute.
You work three jobs? – Three jobs, yes. Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. Get any sleep? If you’re not sleeping. Take pharmaceuticals. You’re tired all the time. You feel sad. If you suffer from excessive worry… Generalized anxiety disorder. It could be adult ADD. – Ask your doctor.
Ask your doctor. Yes. Ask your doctor. And ask him for more drugs. That should keep you doped up until it’s time to retire. Did I say retire? If you make it to 80. Your pension will still be there. Unlike the new employees for these companies. Who’ll never see a pension. But I’m sure our kids will take care of us. Considering the great life we’ve given ’em. Remember. Let’s defeat the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here.
Kaiser Permanente is the largest HMO in the country. And Dawnelle Keyes was fortunate enough to be fully insured by them. It’s a good thing. Because one night, her 18-month-old daughter, Mychelle, developed a fever of over 104. So, like any responsible mom, she called 911, and the ambulance took Mychelle to the closest hospital. The hospital checked with her HMO and they were told that Kaiser would not cover the tests and the antibiotics necessary to treat Mychelle. She would have to take her to an in-netork, Kaiser-owned hospital. Kaiser said that I should bring her by car to the hospital, and that she shouldn’t be treated at Martin Luther King. I just continued to ask them to treat her, and they refused. My daughter got worse and she had a seizure. Dawnelle begged doctors to not listen to Kaiser and to treat her daughter. I was escorted out of the hospital because they felt that I was a threat. After hours of delay. She was transported to Kaiser. And got there just in time to go into cardiac arrest. They worked on her for about 30 minutes, trying to revive her. And the doctors came in and let us know that she had expired. I was in a daze, a real daze. It just didn’t seem real. I just held her. I held her and I told her that Mommy tried her best to help her, to make sure that she was gonna get the treatment she needed to receive. And that I was sorry that I wasn’t able to help her. Simon says: Give the answer. Uh-oh.
This is Karena and her daughter Zoë. Karena is a graduate of Michigan State University. And a native of my hometown of Flint. Michigan. Six months ago. Zoë. Like Dawnelle’s baby Mychelle. Came down with a high fever. What happened is she stopped breathing for a little while, turned blue and passed out in my arms, which was… It was the most horrible moment in my life, I think, just because I thought that she was either dead or dying. And I had no clue what to do. At the hospital, they gave her some medicine to bring the fever down, and examined her, took some blood.
What was wrong with her?
It was a throat infection. But we stayed at the hospital from Friday to Sunday, – just so they could keep an eye on her.
You stayed there that long? Yeah. They just basically kept an eye on her. And how much did all this cost you, the three-plus days in the hospital?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
And that’s because?
I live in France.
You live in France?
Ah. France. They enjoy their wine. Their cigarettes and their fatty foods. And yet, just like the Canadians and the Brits, they live much longer than we do. Something about that seemed grossly unfair.
This is Alexi Cremieux. He spent his entire adult life in the US without health insurance. I lived in America for 13 years. I loved my life there. But then when I discovered that I had a tumor and I didn’t have health insurance, unfortunately, I had to come back here. Even though I had never paid taxes in France ’cause I never worked here
I left when I was 18, I had no Social Security number – for them it was, “He needs treatment, he has no income, so we’re gonna give him, you know, the treatment he needs. “
How are you doing now?
I’m healthy now, but I had three months of chemotherapy. So after three months, I saw my doctor and he said, “You wanna go back to work?” I said, “No, I don’t feel like it. ” “Right now, I’m not ready. ” He said, “How much do you need?” I said, “Well, I don’t know. ” He said, “Would three months be OK?” I said, “I think three months would be fine. ” He said, “OK, so take three months off. ” So he wrote me a note that I gave to my employer to make sure I got paid.
So I went to the south of France… – Wait a minute, three months off with pay? Yes. Yes. I get 65% paid by the government, and then the other 35% is paid by my employer. To make sure you get 100%. So it was April, it was spring again. So I started right away, sucking up some sun. And that really helped me a lot, to recharge my batteries. I mean, it was like night and day. In three months, I went from a 95-year-old man to a 35-year-old man again. But that’s because I had that time to take care of myself. I’m not in a position to make any judgment concerning the American system. I think the United States is a great, great country. Americans are great people. I really love them. But as a doctor first, as a citizen second, and eventually, as a patient third, I’m very glad to be in France. It’s kind of a luxury here. You are sick, you step in a hospital, you get the care you need. It doesn’t depend on your premiums. It depends on what you need. One of the principles is solidarity. People who are better off pay for those who are worse off. You pay according to your means and you receive according to your needs. Do you think that will ever work in America? No. He could barely contain his seething anti-Americanism. And I just didn’t want to listen to any more of it. So I found a group of Americans currently living in Paris. Who I know would tell me the truth. I was diagnosed five years ago with Type I diabetes.
I was a bit nervous to tell them I had…
To tell the French? There’s a place to check off if you have a chronic condition. I was nervous that they were going to charge me more. And instead, I went into a hospital, and had round-the-clock care. And they do an amazing amount of preventative care. They asked if you have a preexisting condition, not to punish you, but to give you more help?
I was in the hospital for a year. As soon as I was in, it was, “Well, don’t worry, just rest. “
People said “Rest. “
How many sick days do you get a year?
I think it’s unlimited.
Unlimited? Yes. How can you limit sick days? If you’re sick, you’re sick. I’ve gone to emergency rooms numerous times, with four boys. And have never waited more than an hour. Never. I can call and somebody comes to the house in half an hour. No way? Making a house call? At your place? How many of you have had a house call from a doctor? No! – 3:00am last Friday.
And how much does this cost you?
What’s this service called? Where are we going? We are going to see a man who has abdominal pain.
Where do we go next?
The next visit? I say to anyone who asks me why I’m in this country is that I think it’s one of the friendliest countries that I know of. And talk about family values – I mean, childcare, healthcare… We don’t pay for day care. The day care where I send my daughter – and I was a teacher – standards are high. So how much does it cost you to have two children here? How much per hour? Are you happy with how they’re cared for? Here, my kids are sure that they are going to get a certain level of care, education, – college I don’t have to worry about… – What do you mean?
You can get a college education for free.
There’s not a sense of desperation. They rest, they enjoy life. They spend time with their kids, there’s vacations, family time.
How many weeks of paid vacation?
Minimum five weeks. Five weeks? Minimum of five weeks? If you work for a large company, you get sometimes eight, ten weeks.
Remember that there is a 35-hour week.
The productivity rate is so high here. I read it was higher than the United States. If they’re working more than 35 hours a week, they’ll get extra days off. That is for part-time and full-time employees. You get five weeks paid vacation even if you’re a part-time employee?
Everybody. If you get married, you get an extra week or seven days for your honeymoon.
In addition to your five weeks.
You’re paid to take your honeymoon? Also if you move.
You mean if you move from one apartment to another? You get one day.
You get a day to move and they pay you?
These are the laws here. When my daughter was three months old, they sent somebody to you to give you tips on what to do with your child, every single day, for free. And they’ll come to your house and do your laundry!
They will! Sure!
No! Stop! Stop!
When you have a baby.
When you have a baby. What are you doing? You from the government?
Can she do anything else?
If I want, yes. She’s, of course, taking care of the children. And I think if I ask her to prepare a meal for tonight, she can do it. No problem. She’s coming twice a week. Four hours a day. So I can do everything I want, for me, for the house, for my husband, during four hours. It’s very precious for me. You don’t have any associations? Nothing to help like that? No. Nobody from the government comes to your home in America and does your laundry for you, if you’re a new mother.
Yeah. Something that I experience a lot of with my own family is guilt. Guilt for being here almost, and seeing the advantages and the benefits I have at such a young age. Things that my parents worked their whole life for and haven’t come close to touching. It’s really hard to know that you’re here in a very privileged position, you know, not living the highlife, but in comparison, definitely. And that seems completely unfair. One of the things that keeps everything running here is that the government is afraid of the people. They’re afraid of protests, they’re afraid of reactions from the people. In the States, people are afraid of the government. They’re afraid of acting up. They’re afraid of protesting, afraid of getting out. In France, that’s what people do. Free college education. Free medical care. Government-issued nannies. I began to wonder how do they pay for all this? And then I realized they’re drowning in taxes! I wanted to see what effect this would have on a nice French family. So I went to find out. – Hello. Welcome. – Hello. Thank you. It’s very nice. – It’s the news. – Yes. What is your combined income for the two of you together for, say one month? All right. You’re an engineer and she’s an assistant? Not bad. How much is your mortgage?
How many cars do you own?
Two. Do you owe money from medical bills? Is there any other debt? Loans, anything?
Only the apartment.
What are your other expenses? The fish. Fish. Vegetables. Vegetables are a big monthly expense for you.
Yes. And fruit. Yogurt.
Yogurt. What are your other big expenses? Very important.
Kenya? – We liked. – Are you happy? – Yes. After seeing all this. I began to wonder. Was there a reason our government and our media wants us to hate the French? Are they worried we might like the French? Or like their ways of doing things? It was enough to make me put away my freedom fries. Meanwhile. Back at home. Hospitals had found a new way to deal with patients who didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t pay their bill. I was standing against the wall and I saw a cab do a U-turn and pull up to the curb. I watched to see what was happening ’cause I had a feeling what would occur, ’cause it’s not a new thing. They pulled up right here by this yellow fire hydrant and dropped Carol off and immediately pulled away. And as soon as they pulled away, she walked out into the street about up to here. She then walked all the way down to the driveway down here, completely confused, has no shoes on whatsoever and just a hospital gown. And those gowns are thin. That’s when one of our staff members went and asked Carol if she needed assistance and found out that she was disoriented and didn’t know where she was. Kaiser Permanente in Bellflower hospital had put her in a cab and directed them to bring her to this drop-off point. But the names of the hospitals had been taken off both bracelets before she arrived. I have seen others that have come through our doors who have IVs still in their arms. They told me that. At their shelter alone. Over 50 patients had been dumped there by hospitals. The options are few. We either open the front door and let them out, which is not the humane thing to do, or we try to find someplace for them to go. And right now, skid row is the best bed in town. The night before we were there. The county hospital run by the University of Southern California. One of the richest private schools in the country. Dumped another patient off on the curb. A woman unable to pay her hospital bill. – Do you know how you got here?
In the cab.
In the cab?
From General Hospital. They gave him the voucher. He dropped me off there, he actually forced me out of the car. Ma’am, are you in pain right now? Are you in pain?
Is there anything we can do? She, at this time, has broken ribs, broken collarbone, and stitches that are not completely healed across the top of her head and on the side of her head. Now let me ask you, ma’am. Before they dropped you off, did they ask you if you knew where you were going? No. They didn’t ask you any questions about your orientation, or whether or not you knew what was going on? No, they just told me to take care of myself. May I take a minute to ask a question that’s been on my mind? Who are we? Is this what we’ve become? A nation that dumps its own citizens like so much garbage on the side of the curb. Because they can’t pay their hospital bill? I always thought. And believe to this day. That we’re a good and generous people. This is what we do if somebody’s in trouble. Anybody gets sick, we all get together and help. People with a good heart… You feel like you’re sacrificing, but you get a blessing from doing this. …and a good soul. We’ve got a lot of support and we’re gonna all keep working until we locate this child. Neighbors quick to lend a helping hand to anyone in their hour of need. I deliver meals to them, but my life has been so blessed that this is just the least that I can do. They say that you can judge a society by how it treats those who are the worst off. But is the opposite true? That you can judge a society by how it treats its best? Its heroes? The firefighters and police, rescue and recovery workers have responded with true heroism. It was their initial heroism that thwarted the objectives of the terrorists. Without regard, in many instances, to their own safety and security.
They truly are heroes. – We owe them everything! Here they are, the men and women who have been on the front lines for New York, and for all of us in America! Tonight is dedicated to you! Don’t forget about the raffles going on over there – one dollar each. I spent two and a half years down there. I got upper and lower breathing problems. I need a double lung transplant, but was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I haven’t slept in a bed in over five years, I sleep on a chair with a blanket, because if I lay down I can’t breathe. There were hundreds of rescue workers on 911 who were not city employees. But rather ran down to Ground Zero on their own to help out. We need volunteers for first aid! And many developed serious respiratory illnesses. That’s when the government said: “They’re not our responsibility because they weren’t on our payroll. ” John Graham is an EMT volunteer from Paramus. New Jersey. He was in Lower Manhattan when he heard the planes hit. And rushed over to help. He worked in the rescue effort for the next few months. But then had trouble receiving benefits for his illness. They just deny you for any reason. It’s just a terrible waiting game. I really feel like they’re waiting for you to die. It’s terrible. I never thought that we would do this, that the United States would do this. William Maher is a volunteer member of New Jersey’s fire service. He spent to months working near The Pile at Ground Zero. Recovering bodies or body parts. And it deeply affected him. I’m experiencing a lot of disturbing dreams, or whatever you’d like to call them, and it affected what I was doing at night, and unaware of it because I was asleep and I just kept grinding and grinding my teeth. The upper fronts are damaged, practically beyond repair, because of my constant grinding over the last three years. I’ve been before a workers’ comp board already for the 9/11 volunteers’ fund. I’ve been denied three times, and hopefully I will go on my fourth appeal soon, if I can get the necessary documentation. Of course. There was a $50 million fund set up supposedly to help rescue workers. Ladies and gentlemen, the governor of New York, George Pataki. But the government. Like the health insurance companies. Made it very difficult for people to receive help. You have to have spent a certain amount of time at Ground Zero, you have to be able to establish that. You do have to file an affidavit within the next year, relating your work experiences at Ground Zero. And then, even with all of that, it’s not automatic. There is a presumption when certain illnesses occur, but that presumption can be rebutted by other medical evidence. We think it is a very fair approach that protects our heroes. I’m sorry. Reggie Cervantes was a volunteer medical technician on 911. Nothing makes it go away sometimes. Not water, not cough medicine, anything. It’s just burning in my throat and irritated and it just gets me to coughing. Sometimes I have trouble breathing ’cause I can’t catch my breath. Reggie spent her days at Ground Zero carrying bodies and treating other rescue workers. My airway was totally burnt that first week, and I had trouble breathing by then. But we wanted to see if we could dig anybody up alive, we wanted to see if we had lost anybody, if we were still missing somebody. I wanted to help. I was trained for this. You know, you see somebody who is in need, you help ’em. Reggie had difficulty getting treatment. Too sick to work and with no income. She was forced to quit her job. And used her savings to move her and her kids out of the city. It’s hard to figure out how you’re supposed to get help. We’re trying to go about it the right way. But we’re ignored. But not everyone after 911 was ignored by the government.
We’re now approaching the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. So I’m announcing today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, and 11 other terrorists in CIA custody, have been transferred to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. On that island are some of the world’s most hardened enemy combatants. These detainees are deadly and include the 20th hijacker, as well as a number of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards and others who had a direct role in the September 11 attacks. The kind of people held at Guantanamo include terrorist trainers, bomb-makers… Many of them have American blood on their hands and are the elite of al-Qaida. It seems to me we have an obligation to treat these individuals as enemy combatants. And then I learned it wasn’t all bad news at Gitmo. Detainees representing a threat to our national security are given access to top-notch medical facilities. They have acute care 24 hours a day, in which surgical procedures, everything can be performed right there in the detainee camps. This is the dental clinic, or the health clinic. We have a physical therapy department, X- ray capabilities with digital X-rays. We have one single operating room. Health personnel to detainee ratio is one to four, remarkably high. They do sick call on the blocks three times per week, care for them there if they can, or bring that detainee back to the clinic to be seen there. Screening for cancer has taken place. Colonoscopy is a procedure which is performed there on a routine basis. We have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. We monitor the weight and nutrition of the detainees, so that we can track those detainees to make sure we see them frequently, monitoring their labs and their overall health. Their medical attention… They get way better medical treatment than I’ve ever had.
You think it’s as good as most US HMOs? – Certainly very similar and as good, sir. I leave with an impression that healthcare there is clearly better than they received at home, and as good as many people receive in the United States of America. Wow! So there is actually one place on American soil that had free universal healthcare. That’s all I needed to know. I went down to Miami. Florida. Got myself a boat. And loaded up Bill. And Reggie and John. John, welcome, sir. And anyone else I could find who needed to see a doctor and couldn’t afford one. So many people showed up. I had to get a couple extra boats. And I called up Donna Smith from Denver. Who is now on nine different medications. And asked her if she’d like to come along. I figured she’d like to get out of her daughter’s basement for a while. All right, let’s go. Which way to Guantanamo Bay? Can we go? We’re not going to Cuba! We’re going to America! It’s American soil! We made it. There it is. There’s the runway. That’s the prison over there where the detainees are.
We’re very close.
Yeah, we’re very close. The white building is the hospital, I think. OK, let’s go. We commandeered a fishing boat and sailed into Guantanamo Bay. As we approached the line in the water beteen the American and Cuban side. We were told to be careful for mines. Permission to enter. I have three 9/11 rescue workers. They need some medical attention. These are 9/11 rescue workers! They just want some medical attention! The same kind that al-Qaida is getting. They don’t want any more than you’re giving the evildoers, just the same! Hello. No one in the guard tower was responding and then we heard a siren. We figured it was time to get out of here. But what was I supposed to do with these sick people and no one to help them? I mean. Here we were stuck in some godforsaken Third World country. And communists. No less. When I was a kid. These people wanted to kill us. What was I supposed to do? Excuse me, we’re looking for a doctor. Is there a doctor here in Cuba? Any doctors? All in this one block? All right, thank you very much. Thank you. OK. OK. I know what you’re thinking. Cuba is where Lucifer lives. The worse place on Earth. The most evil nation ever created. How do we know that? ‘Cause that’s what we’ve been told for over 45 years. A series of offensive missile sites can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the western hemisphere. I’m not gonna yield until Fidel Castro allows freedom on the island. That’s a… You can count on it. Put it in the bank. It seems that what really bugged us about Castro was that he overthrew the dictator that we liked. And replaced him with a guy we didn’t like – himself. And so now. After all these years. One thing is clear – the Cuban people have free universal healthcare. They’ve become known as having not only one of the best healthcare systems. But as being one of the most generous countries in providing doctors and medical equipment to Third World countries. In the US. Healthcare costs run nearly $ 7.000 per person. But in Cuba. They spend only $ 251. And yet the Cubans are able to have a lower infant mortality rate than the US. A longer average life span than the United States. They believe in preventive medicine. And it seems like there’s a doctor on every block. Their only sin when it comes to healthcare seems to be that they don’t do it for a profit. Anybody need medication right now from the pharmacy?
Are you the pharmacist?
Yes. Do you have this?
Is this one similar to yours?
Yeah. It’s $120 in the US.
This is $120 in the US?
How much is that in American dollars?
It’s like five cents.
Yeah. More or less. Thank you very much. Muchas gracias. $120 is a lot of money when you get $1,000 in social security disability and need one or two a month. Five cents here? It’s like the biggest insult. It just doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense. I wanna fill a suitcase up and go back home with it. I took my group of sick Americans to a hospital to see if they could get some care. They didn’t ask for money or an insurance card. Just their name… and date of birth. That was the entire intake session. Thank you very much for doing this. I asked them to give us the same exact care they give their fellow Cuban citizens. No more. No less. And that’s what they did. I’m Dr. Roque. I’m an internal medicine specialist.
How are you feeling? My lungs hurt. I have pain. I get pretty severe nosebleeds at times. I get terrible headaches in the night, but I haven’t been evaluated for the sleep apnea for nine years.
Yeah, I have…
Many medications for lung problems. Almost every medication for lung problems, I’ve got. After 9/11, things have happened, my teeth started falling out. Because of certain conditions, I was grinding. There’s one test that they recommended I take, it’s about $5,000 to $ 7,000. The dentist that I talked to, it’s like $15,000 or more. It’s two years I have no medical coverage, so I can’t go for the last part of the test. It’s OK, everything’s gonna be OK. Right? Yes. I am so… It’s so hard for me to digest somebody saying it’s free. Because 20 years of our lives have been spent fighting. So I am so grateful. No, you don’t need to say that.
Thank you. Thank you.
OK. Come on, don’t cry. Everything’s gonna be OK, right?
At least what we can do, right? Reggie was diagnosed with pulmonary and bronchial problems. The Cuban doctors gave her a treatment plan to follow back home. Along with some of those five cent inhalers. William Maher received a number of treatments on his neck and his back. Having ground down his teeth for three years due to post-traumatic stress. He left Cuba with a new set of teeth. After a series of tests on his heart. Lungs. Blood and stomach. John now knew what his ailments were. He was given a strict plan to follow. Plus a number of treatments and was feeling better than he had in years. The Cuban doctors were able to take Donna off five of her nine medications. And with a correct diagnosis. Gave her a treatment plan to help her live a more normal life. When firefighters and paramedics in Havana heard that the 911 rescue workers were in town. They invited them over to one of their firehouses. And so. On our last day there. As we arrived. They stood at attention because. They said. They wanted to honor the heroes of 911.
Sí. Somos familia. Y los hermanos que perdimos en las Torres Gemelas se sintió en el mundo completo. The brothers we lost on 9/11 was felt around the world.
Mis hermanos. Don’t hesitate to hug a brother. It’s very important for them to wear the SCBA so they don’t end up like me. – They’re lungs. – These tanks. SCBA. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. Tenemos una reserva también en el carro. Es un placer poder venir aquí. Esto es lo único que tenemos nosotros… F- F-F. Three Fs. If this is what can happen between supposed enemies. If one enemy can hold out his hand and offer to heal. Then what else is possible? That’s when I heard that the man who runs the biggest anti-Michael Moore website on the internet was going to have to shut it down. He could no longer afford to keep it up because his wife was ill and they couldn’t afford to pay for her health insurance. He was faced with a choice of either keep attacking me or pay for his wife’s health. Fortunately. He chose his wife. But something seemed wrong about being forced into such a decision. Why. In a free country. Shouldn’t he be able to have health insurance and exercise his First Amendment right to run me into the ground? So I wrote a check for the $ 12.000 he needed to keep his wife insured and in treatment. And sent it to him anonymously. His wife got better and his website is still going strong.
Michael Moore: It was hard for me to acknowledge that in the end, we truly are all in the same boat. And that now matter what are differences, we sink or swim together. That’s how it seems to be everywhere else. They take care of each other, no matter what their disagreements. You know, when we see a good idea from another country, we grab it. If they build a better car, we drive it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. So if they’ve come up with a better way to treat the sick, to teach their kids, to take care of their babies, to simply be good to each other, then what’s our problem? Why can’t we do that? They live in a world of ‘we’, not ‘me’. We’ll never fix anything until we get that one basic thing right. And powerful forces hope that we never do. And that we remain the only country in the western world without free, universal health care. You know, if we ever did remove the chokehold of medical bills, college loans, daycare, and everything else that makes us afraid to step out of line, well, watch out. Cause it will be a new day in America. In the meantime, I’m gonna go get the government to do my laundry.