DVD Review: Sicko
Michael Moore, the controversial film maker with a wonderful sense of the absurd is considered a propagandist by many in America. Like Charlie Chaplin who made us laugh as he made us understand the deep-rooted social problems of poverty, racism and exploitation, Moore's films have struck a similar chord of humor and social issues with me.
The film deals with the totally expensive and dysfunctional Management care- Health system of the US. The conclusion is simply Universal Healthcare for all. Let your tax dollars pay for Health for all. The Special Features section of the DVD has some wonderful interviews with various persons including Tony Benn of Britain and Marcia Angell of the US. They are infectious, for certain! More middle class families went bankrupt last year in the US owing to huge medical bills in spite of being insured.
Now, for you and me, who have been used to free medical care in India for decades, in those dirty government hospitals, it is not something new. For America, that has been told for over 35 years that Managed health care is the only way to good and affordable healthcare, this is equal to communist propaganda.
Moore points to the NHS of Britain, Canada and the public health system in France and communist Cuba, only to be slighted and called a propagandist in US popular media. What he fails to show his viewers is the direct link between drug companies and them funding the media in the US by paying gigantic advertising monies.
Moore shows the high cost of administration involved in Managed care that takes out medical care from the equation of insurance. So, basically, all the fools like me who are shelling out approximately $1000 per month on insurance for a family of 4 are paying for the CEOs and administrative staff (and the shareholders, we mustn't forget them) of all those wealthy insurance companies and if and when I do show up at the Doctor's Office I have to shell out more as co-payments and other charges that are not included in my plan.
That is pretty much the gist of this film. The sad part is that companies like Apollo Hospitals in Chennai and Hyderabad have made this model very successful in India. Managed Health care has sounded the death knell to true medical help in our country. In the past two years, I have heard personal stories from family members in India (mostly seniors with a small pension) who had to face a by-pass, cancer etc. having to shell out lakhs of Rupees after having paid for insurance. Not only were these procedures expensive, post-operative care was abysmal. Once money changes hands, you are thrown out like yesterday's garbage. If you don't have money, then you are thrown out right away!
Last month, medical students in Tamil Nadu protested against the center's idea of making all medical students do a compulsory stint of one academic year in the rural areas compulsory, as part of their MBBS degree. As much as I understand the plight of students from poor families who have mortgaged their families and fortunes to become a doctor, I am shocked at the mercenary attitude of this most noble profession.
In ancient India, the tradition of dakshina existed only for two professions- for Vidya and Vaidya. Both education and medicine were considered so precious that they could never put a price tag on them. Hence, the student (in the case of Vidya) and the patient (in the case of Vaidya) made a "token" offering or "dakshina". How can we truly evaluate the knowledge that we have gained from all our teachers? How can we put a value to our very lives and health when we go to a doctor?
It is unfortunate that in a country like the US, where public education is given importance, the services of a doctor is not included. In India, both have become a lost cause for some time now though we technically have free government schools and government hospitals. In the medical sector, we still find some amazingly committed doctors who are doing yeoman service in their communities and beyond. The number of charitable hospitals in India are mindblowing. From the Cancer Institute in Chennai to this doctor living in a shack in Hrishikesh (he was instrumental in stitching up my brother's toe in candlelight after a sudden accident), this country still has many practitioners of this noble art of healing the sick.
The last time I went to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi and Ram Manohar Lohia, New Delhi, I was amazed at the commitment and focus of these doctors and nurses. The ob-gyn from Safdarjung was sharing some funny stories about these rural women who come to her for deliveries and have no clue about even lying down in a hospital bed. When a woman was told to slide down further for the doctor to examine her (aur neeche aao), she promptly got up and lay down on the floor!! They are so used to a mat on the floor! The job of a doctor includes teaching people basic ideas of health, nutrition, hygiene and disease prevention.
I honestly don't care about the super rich who can afford any kind of care anywhere. I am interested in the majority of humans who need access to quality health care for the ailing and the ill. Universal healthcare is a must as is universal literacy.
DVD Review: Sicko
- » Published on December 30, 2007
- » Type: Review
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