E.T. in Michael Moore’s film SiCKO By Frank Davies 2007

E.T. in Michael Moore’s film SiCKO  By Frank Davies  2007

Who would have thought that a pilgrimage to the land of the
Beatles would result in millions of people seeing one of the
most embarrassing escapades of the journey years later? Karaoke
Jock, DJ and musician Eric Turnbow certainly didn’t expect that
doing a hand stand on Abby Road (at the cross walk made infamous
by controversy over a photo of the Beatles used for their album:
“Abby Road”) would be his ticket to the proverbial 15 minutes of
fame we may all be entitled to. But as luck and misfortune would
both have it, he fell. From attempted hand stand to crashing
down on the pavement and rising again with a dislocated shoulder
was caught on film by his buddy who continued filming as Eric
began to realize that his shoulder was not quite right. Eric is
known in his family as the one who documents their events, and
so his trip to England, special as it was to him, was likewise
well documented. Included were clips of Eric: singing a-capella
“Oh England” at the London Hotel, sitting on the steps of the
legendary “Abby Road Studios”, up in the Hospital after having
my shoulder pushed back into place by English medics, and
enjoying his “less than $10″ medication, in addition to the
above mentioned fall.

Fast forward to now. Eric contacted Michael Moore with his story
and out of the tens of thousands sent in, his story was used or
at least the parts Michael Moore decided upon. Yep, Puget
Sound’s own CosmicKaraoke.com KJ E.T. is being seen in one of
the top five grossing documentaries of all time… SiCKO, in
1,200 theatres across the country. The result has been good for
Eric, getting to meet Michael More at the Seattle opening, and
being interviewed by local radio and press. He is also mentioned
now in blogs and bulletin boards on the internet. There is a
lesson in all of this for you entertainers… “fame is good.”
Eric is mentioned in the film’s credits right above Pearl Jam’s
Eddie Vedder. So now there are two ways to see E.T., catch him
live at the Viking in Lacey, or as comic relief in SiCKO at your
local theater.


Doug BremnerDoug BremnerDoug BremnerDoug BremnerDoug BremnerDoug BremnerDoug Bremner

Our Healthcare System Sucks, Part II

By Doug Bremner  (Eric’s Grade School Chum)

Physician, researcher and author of ‘Before You Take That Pill’Posted: November 6, 2007 09:38 PMI posted on our messed up healthcare system and the total lack of leadership to do anything about it and got a lot of responses reaffirming how pissed off people are about this country. A lot of you said that Bush and the Republicans were to blame and I couldn’t agree more. I mean, Bush has got a pretty good insurance plan. In fact he has his own personal doctor. Is this an ENTITLEMENT? And for the Republicans, getting sick has become equivalent to moral weakness or lack of patriotism. How messed up is that?

You have may have seen Michael More’s film Sicko and remember the guy doing handstands in England who dislocated his shoulder and got free and excellent healthcare in England. Well his name is Eric Turnbow and I actually went to High School with him in Olympia, Washington. And amazingly enough I had an almost identical experience in Denmark.

You see after giving a lecture in Aarhus, Denmark, I was walking down one of the streets of the city and my attention was caught by a pretty Danish girl across the street (thank goodness my wife doesn’t read this blog, please don’t tell) and tripped over a scaffolding on the side walk. After getting back to my hotel room I pulled up my pant leg and was freaked out when I saw a huge gash cutting through to the bone. What was my first thought? You guessed it: how much is this going to cost me in a country that doesn’t take Blue Cross/Blue Shield?

Well I dragged my sorry ass over to the medical school where I was to attend a dinner in my honour and there was an ER conveniently located across the street. There I was attended by an attractive and very professional Danish doctor who neatly sewed me up.  Afterwards I stood up and asked the inevitable question.”How much do I owe?” “Nothing,” she said. “We have National Healthcare here.” “Even if I am a foreigner?” I asked, incredulous.”Nothing at all,” she said.Well I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even have to fill out any paperwork. Afterwards as I limped across the street I wondered, do we really have the best healthcare in the country? Hmmm. Probably not. And definitely not the prettiest doctors!


(This is a cool article I found online which mentions Me!)

Sicko Synopsis  “Without Feathers”…….

For the second part of my public service project “I watched Sicko so you wouldn’t have to” I present a detailed synopsis of the movie that will at once inform you of the content of said film and also allow you to engage in debate over the film without having to endure taunts from liberals that you are “criticizing a movie that you haven’t even seen.” If you attend this post carefully, you will easily pass any movie trivia quiz the Moorish throw at you.

This synopsis is presented with as much objectivity as I can muster. I will reserve my editorial comments for a subsequent post.

Sicko begins with a clip of President Bush’s well known gaff about OB/GYNs practicing there “love for women.” The film then quickly cuts to introductions of Adam and Rick. Adam has just had an accident and is about to sew up a deep gash across his knee himself rather than incur the financial burden of going to an emergency room for treatment. Rick shows the circular saw where, he explains, he cut off the tips of two fingers. Uninsured, he had to choose between having the tip of his ring finger reattached for $12,000 or the tip of his middle finger for $60,000. Moore’s narration explains that Rick, “a hopeless romantic” chose the ring finger.

Moore tells us that 50 million Americans are without health insurance and 18,000 of them die every year because of that. But, he assures us, this film is not about those people, but about the 250 million who do have health insurance and are “living the American dream.”

The film then cuts to a scene of Larry (former union machinist) and Donna (former newspaper editor) driving to their daughter’s home where they will take up residence because Larry’s three heart attacks and Donna’s cancer have left them unemployed and uninsured. Larry and Donna’s children are willing to help, but can’t understand how the system left them in such a sorry state. The son-in-law is leaving that day for a job on a plumbing contract in Iraq.

Several more cases are introduced: Laura was in a traffic accident but her insurance refused to cover an ambulance ride because it was not pre-approved; Jason was rejected because he was underweight (six feet tall, 130 lbs); A fat girl was rejected because of her body mass index. Moore reveals that he received 25,000 responses to a solicitation for health care horror stories. He also states that he received hundreds of letters from people who work in the industry and are “fed up” with what they are doing to people.

The film introduces several more people: Becky Melki whose job was to collect information from applicants that would later be used to deny them coverage; Dr. Linda Pino, former medical director of Humana, who testified to congress about her employers zeal to deny claims, including one that she is sure resulted in the death of the claimant — but resulted in a half million dollar savings to Humana.

We also see a little girl who was denied a second cochlear implant because the insurer, CIGNA, contends that cochlear implants for both ears are experimental. Other people report similar stories including one who’s life was saved because she was in Japan when she collapsed and so received life-saving cancer therapy that had been denied by her insurer. We are informed that two of the others died because they were denied treatment.

The list continues on for the rest of the first half hour of the film. Moore then provides a short history of how the current system of health insurance in the U.S. evolved. We hear a tape recording from the Oval Office identified as taking place on February 17, 1971, 5:23PM. John Ehrlichman is reporting to Richard Nixon on Edgar Kaiser’s Permanente plan for his employees. Ehrlichman explains that the plan works because “All incentives run toward less medical care.” Nixon is enthusiastic about this, and the next day announces that his administration will be developing a strategy to assure that all Americans have health coverage. In 1973, Nixon announces an HMO program (based on Kaiser Permanente) that he will present to congress.

The film then cuts to 1993 and Hillary Clinton (Bill’s “little lady… sassy, smart, sexy”) and tells us that “some men couldn’t handle it” while showing pictures of various Republicans. Hillary Clinton decides to make health care for everyone her priority and is given the charter to do so by her husband, President Bill Clinton. Clips show various Republicans criticizing the effort, including a clip of Hillary comparing Republican Congressman Dick Armey to Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Cut-away to a clever montage cold war era “Red Menace” film clips as Moore describes historic resistance to national health care. The principal opponent being the American Medical Association which sponsored a nationwide series home “coffee klatches” to present a recording of Ronald Reagan excoriating “socialized medicine.” We are then told that the health care industry spent $100 million to defeat Hillary’s plan as the U.S. slipped to #37 in health care — just below Costa Rico.

We see television reports of record health industry profits and CEO compensation, and Hillary is reputed to be rewarded with the second largest political contribution from the health care industry in history. A clip shows an assemblage of various congresspeople labeled with campaign contribution amounts from the health care industry. George Bush is revealed to be the top recipient.

The film then focuses on Republican Representative Billy Tauzin who is shown in clip after clip proclaiming his love for his mother. We are reminded that Bush signed into law the Medicare Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, which Moore claims contributed directly to making drugs more expensive. Moore also notes that 14 congressional aids subsequently went to work for the health care industry and that Billy Tauzin became the CEO of PHARMA, the drug industries lobbying organization for a salary of $2 million per year.

Adrian Campbell, mother of two, is shown driving to Canada. At 22 Adrian has contracted cervical cancer. Adrian explains that her insurance company refused to pay for treatment because they say it is not possible for a 22 year old to contract cervical cancer. Adrian tries to get a national health card by using her boyfriend Kyle’s address in Canada and claiming to be his common law wife. The clinic is suspicious and calls the police. Adrian and Moore’s camera crew try to find another clinic, but the police are already there waiting for her.

Film clips show Bill O’Reilly, Stephen Forbes and various news reports claiming that Canadians wait 9-10 months for bypass surgery. Moore asks his Canadian relatives about this. They meet at a Sears in Canada where the relatives are buying supplemental medical insurance for a trip to the U.S. They explain that a friend suffered a head injury on vacation in Hawaii and incurred $600,000 in medical expenses.

Another Canadian, Larry Godfreid suffered a shoulder injury while golfing in Florida. When told it would cost $24,000 for surgery, Larry returned to Canada for free care. Larry mentions that he is a conservative and tells Moore about (Anthony) Tony Douglas, whom he describes as the most important person in Canadian history. Douglas was the founder of the national health system in Canada. Moore also interviews a man who had four fingers severed in an accident and reattached at no cost in a Canadian hospital. We also see several patients in a hospital waiting room who all describe the service as fast and excellent. One says the it is a “fabulous system.” Moore notes that Canadians live three years longer, on average, than Americans.

Eric Turnbow attempted to walk across Abbey Road on his hands in homage to his idols the Beatles. This caused him to dislocate his shoulder. He was taken to hospital in London where he was astonished to learn that not only was the care free, but that all of his prescriptions came to about $10. All prescriptions in Britain are about $10 dollars, and only working adults are expected to pay. Pharmacies are for medical supplies only. A cashier is shown and it is explained that the sole purpose of the window is to reimburse patients who had to pay for transport out of their own pocket. Moore also notes that Britons are provided with six months of paid and, if they want, six months of unpaid maternity leave.

Moore interviews several other American ex-patriots in London who all describe the national health system as excellent. A film clip of an old Soviet propaganda film of farmers harvesting wheat is shown while Moore states that “back home in America, we’ve socialized lots of things” — firefighters, schools, postal service, libraries and police.

Sicko Synopsis

Moore interviews Tony Benn, former (far left) Labor MP. Benn discusses the origin of Britain’s National Health System (NHS) in 1948. He emphasizes that it was not created as a charity, it was and is a taxpayer provided service. Moore notes that in 1948 Britain was near bankruptcy and struggling to recover from World War II. Benn says that even Mrs. Thatcher felt the need to assure Britons that she would not touch the system.

The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” plays in the background.

Moore quotes a JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) study comparing the health of 55 to 64 year olds in Britain and the U.S. In most categories, Britons are healthier than Americans. The study also notes that the poorest in Britain can expect to live longer than the richest in America.

We are introduced to a NHS doctor who tells us that he is happy not to have to deal with money at all or ever have to turn away patients. Moore questions him about his financial status. The doctor explains that he owns a million dollar home and drives a high-end Audi. He is paid about 85,000 pounds (~$170,000) per year and the average at the practice where he works is about 100,000 pounds (~$200,000). Under a new NHS plan, doctors are rewarded for positive outcomes with their patients. Moore comments that U.S. doctors need have no fear of universal health care and the doctor agrees.

Cut back to Tony Benn who comments that democracy is the most revolutionary force in the world — more revolutionary than socialism. He notes that freedom of choice depends on economics and that the system works to keep people hopeless. The system doesn’t want people educated, healthy and confident, according to Moore.

Moore explains, over a clip of a film entitled “Life in America” that the U.S. has the worst infant mortality in the western world and poor public education. Moore says that student loans create compliant workers and shows a clip of a Bush admirer telling the President that she works three jobs which Bush notes is “uniquely American.” Various clips show commercials promoting drugs and children flying a kite in an unspecified, but apparently middle eastern country.

Donelle Keyes was insured by Kaiser Permanente when her 18 month old daughter Mychelle came down with a fever and headaches. The child was taken to Martin Luther King hospital in South Central Los Angeles, but the hospital administration tells her that her insurance will not cover care at the hospital and Mychelle should be taken to an “in network hospital.” Donelle refuses to take her daughter to the Kaiser Permanente facility and continues to plead with MLK administrators to ignore the insurance rules and treat her daughter there and then at no charge. After several hours, Donelle is escorted out of the building with her daughter and they are put in a car to be transported to a Kaiser Permanente hospital. Mychelle dies at the second hospital.

Karina’s daughter Zoe also comes down with a high fever, but Zoe is admitted to a hospital immediately and remains there from Friday to Sunday at no cost because they live in France. Moore notes that the French “live much longer” than Americans. Alexi Ceumeaux lived in the U.S. for most of his adult life, but when he developed cancer he returned to France for treatment because he could not afford treatment in the U.S. In France he was given three months of treatment plus three months of paid recuperation. Dr. Jacques Milliez notes that in France health care depends on need while in the U.S. care depends on means. This, he says, is the result of the solidarity of the French people.

Moore meets with several U.S. ex-patriots living in France. One has type 1 diabetes and was afraid to fill out the medical forms when registering for health care upon his arrival in France. There was no need to worry because there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions. He spent a year in the hospital. A woman tells of her experiences noting that with four boys she has made several trips to the emergency room and never waited more than an hour for care.

S.O.S. Medicins is a private service (in France) that makes 24 hour house calls. Amidst scenes of one patient in his home dropping his pants for an injection, we learn that the service was started 40 years ago by a doctor who discovered that he could obtain plumbing service 24 hours a day, but not medical service.

Moore continues with the expats who note that France is a family friendly country offering day care for about $1/hour, free college tuition and five weeks (minimum) paid vacation — many people get eight weeks, unlimited sick leave and a 35 hour work week. One of the expats suggests that the reason so this is all possible is because French workers are so much more productive than U.S. workers. The French government will provide a nanny free of charge, twice a week for four hours, to new mothers. The nanny is an employee of the government and will even cook dinner if asked. One of the expats says she feels a little bad about having it so much better in France than her relatives back in the U.S. Another notes that in France the government is afraid of the people instead of the other way around.

We see scenes of French protesters including a demonstration of about 160,000 students. The various demonstrations are for free housing, more days off and other benefits.

Moore wonders about taxes which, he says, must be very high to afford all of these amenities. He visits an “average middle class family” living in a comfortable Paris apartment. There combined gross income is about $8000/month. The mortgage on the apartment costs them about $1575/month. They own two cars and have no debt other than their mortgage. There biggest expense is food (“feesh and vegetables”). There next major expense is the holidays they take traveling all over the world. They tell us they are happy.

“Why does the government and media want us to hate the French?” Asks Moore. Are they worried we might like the French and their ways of doing things? This is enough to make him put away his freedom fires.


Sicko Synopsis

Meanwhile, back at home, hospitals have found a new way to deal with patients who couldn’t pay their bill. A witness reports seeing a cab pull up…a shelter secuirty officer says: “[a cab] dropped Carol off.” She walked down to the entrance completely confused wearing only a hospital gown [clip shows she is actually wearing additional garments] carry a bag. A shelter staff worker approaches Carol. It turns out that Kaiser Permanente pur her in the cab and sent it to the shelter. Over 50 patients have been similarly dumped there.

James Lott, Executive Vice President, Hospital Association of Southern California, says that they try to find someplace for them to go rather than just open the door, but right now skid row is the best bet in town.. County Hospital (run by the University of Southern California) dumped another patient off at the curb, incurring an investigation by Deputy County Attorney, Gordon Turner.

Moore than addresses the audience: “May I take a minute to ask a question that has been on my mind? Who are we? What have we become?” A clip shows a scene of a rural community cooperating and helping each other. Moore continues: “They say you can judge a society by how it treats those who are worst off. But is the opposite true: That you can judge a society by how it treats its best, its heroes?” We see a montage of prominent people praising the 9/11 rescue workers in 2001-02.

“5 years later” we are introduced to several volunteer rescue workers now suffering various ailments which are believed to be associated with the work site. William (Bill) Marr suffers from post traumatic distress syndrome and persistent nightmares from his experience recovering bodies and body parts from “the pile.” His teeth have been permanently damaged as a result of night-time grinding. Reggie Cervantes was a volunteer EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) who now has trouble breathing and a persistent cough. She remembers having trouble breathing from the end of the first week at Ground Zero. She was forced to quit her job and move out of the City.

A montage of clips shows: Bush naming 15 terrorists who have been transfered to Guantanamo Bay Detention Center; various government officials describing the detainees as dangerous people; military officers describing the “excellent” health care they are receiving and noting that the health personnel to detainee ratio is one-to-four. The montage also include clips of the detainees eating and playing soccer. A military spokesperson says that the health care the detainees are receiving is comparable to the best HMOs.

Moore takes a group of the 9/11 rescue workers introduced earlier including Bill, Reggie and John, as well as Donna Smith (the woman who moved into her daughters house early in the film) from which they depart to Guantanamo in three boats as stirring music plays in the soundtrack. A cutaway shows the seal of the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security while a scroll-over declares: “Homeland Security laws of the United States of America prohibit the filmakers from revealing how they got to their destination.” Cut back to a scene of three fishing boats outside of the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Station from which Moore yells at a distant guard tower (eventually using a bullhorn) but receives no response.

Cut to scenes of Cuba/Havana and Moore leading the group around Havana looking for a doctor and pharmacy. Over ominous music we see clips depicting Cuba as “the worst place on Earth.” Moore suggests that the reason for U.S. policy is that Castro “replaced a dictator we liked with one that we didn’t like.” Despite U.S. views, Cuba is known around the world as having not only one of the best health care systems, but also for being one of the most generous in providing doctors and medical equipment to third world countries.

Compared to U.S. spending of $6000 per person for health care, Cuba spends only $251 per person yet has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy. We then see a scene of a bare-shelved pharmacy (in Havana) .  There are few medications in sight but, by  happy coincidence, the medications needed all are found in a drawer. One of the 9/11 rescue workers notes that this medication costs hundreds of dollars back in the U.S. but only about five cents in Cuba.

The group arrives at Havana Hospital, an imposing high-rise with clean, bright, modern reception area. The admission process requires only name and date of birth which takes just a few minutes. The group is welcomed by Doctor Jaime Wright who speaks English well. Dr. Wright promises the group first class care. Moore asks for the same care given to Cuban citizens and he is assured that there is only one standard of care in Cuba. We see scenes of the patients being examined, surrounded by doctors and nurses and finally a scene of one of the group being scanned in a recent Phillips MRI, as well as tests being conducted in a modern, well equiped lab.

Pediatrician Aleida Guevara (Che Guevara’s daughter) explains that Cuba is a “…little island with few resources, but can do a lot to improve the health of its people.” Dr. Guevara wonders why this does not happen in the United States. She wonders how this is possible in Cuba and not in the U.S. She notes that the more a country produces, the richer it gets, the more it should give to its people. In Cuba, patients are all given treatment.

Finished with their treatment at Havana Hospital — they are also bringing back drugs and treatment regimens — the group of 9/11 volunteers visit a Havana firehouse where the firefighters stand at attention to “honor heroes of 9/11.” The commander says that firefighters around the world are all brothers. The two groups greet each other, shake hands and hug.

As Moore was working on this film in 2006, he learned that the man who runs the biggest anti-Michael Moore website on the internet would have to shut down the site because he could no longer afford to keep it running because his wife was ill and they couldn’t afford to pay for insurance. Moore felt that it wasn’t right for the man to have to curtail his protests because of his wife’s illness, so he sent him an anonymous check for $12,000. The man’s wife recovered and the website is still going strong.

Moore wraps up the film with these observations: Everywhere else in the world, people take care of each other. We have a history of adopting better ideas from around the world, so why can’t we follow their example and take care of each other? The insurance companies, according to Moore, hope that we remain the only country in the world that doesn’t have “free” universal health care because this is part of strategy to maintain a choke-hold on U.S. citizens with the burden of student loans, medical bills and expensive daycare. The film closes with Moore carrying a laundry basket up the steps of the U.S. Capitol. “I’m going to get the government to do my laundry.” He says.

Closing credits roll over the sound of Cat Stevens performing “Don’t be Shy.” In the list of acknowledgments, Moore thanks Kurt Vonnegut “for everything” and dedicates the film to his mother. A graphic notes: “Any American interested in marrying a Canadian for free health care: www.hook-a-canuck.com.

At the 123 minute mark the film fades to black and holds for an additional minute.


SiCKO Blog

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:29 PM

Adrian Campbell: My Post-’SiCKO’ Life


By Adrian Campbell, American SiCKO

WATERFORD, MI — I have been cancer free since my surgery in the fall of 2004. I visited Kyle Belward up at the Sault this past weekend. We talked about eventually moving to Saskatchewan.

Work in Windsor, Ontario, for Kyle, my “man-friend” from Canada was hard to find, so he went out to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to work in the oil sands. He finally came back to Windsor this past April, just in time for my birthday. But even since he has been back, he has had to go out of town for work. He currently is up in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, and then when he is done there he will be in Toronto. It is hard, but that is the life of an iron worker.

But things have been difficult for me, too, since everyone saw me in ‘SiCKO.’

I was called into my supervisor’s office Thursday afternoon, July 12. I was not sure why I would be getting called in; the departments I managed were running smoothly. I sat down at his desk, and he said “Well your position has been cut.” He pulls out a folder and handed it to me. “This is your severance package.” I could not believe it! I was shocked, mortified, and confused.

I asked why me and why he couldn’t send me to another department, or to another store. Mr. B as I will call him, said he could no longer have me working at the store or for the company and that it was bad publicity for the company to employ someone who is in a controversial documentary. In the past few weeks, he has called me “anti-American” for being in ‘SiCKO.’ Wanting healthcare — good quality free healthcare — is anti-American?

Meijer had to cut five managers at each store that day. I was number six from my store. The movie and his extreme conservative feelings were just an excuse to get rid of me. I am not sorry for sharing my story in the movie. I feel much better about it, because it is being used for something bigger.

There was no legitimate reason to fire me. I drove up sales, had many customer compliments, I got along with everyone at work. I was just unfortunate to get a new boss who felt that I would be a threat to Meijer’s reputation. Why was I a threat?

I never spoke to customers about the movie or my free healthcare beliefs. I never spoke to my fellow employees about it either. I had been recognized by a couple of customers, but they were guys who wanted my phone number more than to talk about healthcare in America. I had told my superiors that I was in ‘SiCKO,’ and informed them that I never mention Meijer in the movie.

Well, I never mentioned Meijer until now. I was a salaried manager, making $40,000 a year. I managed at my store, the bakery, the deli, the café, and the cheese shop. Due to corporate greed, I was forced to work 60 hours a week to make up for the lack of employees in the departments. I was stressed out a lot, tired, and bitchy. But I still went in every day, because I needed the job, to pay for my medical bills. It is a vicious cycle!

As Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to increase each day, I am saddened at my now former employer. Meijer’s roots are here in Michigan. They started in Greenville, Michigan back in 1934. Now 73 years later, they are no longer the family friendly place to work and shop. Instead they are contributing to the problems that plague this state and the rest of the country.

Now I find myself filling out the unemployment papers. My daughter Aurora was supposed to have tubes put in her ears next month, but I guess I will have to put that on the back burner. There is something wrong with this country, when a 4-year-old cannot have a medical procedure done, because her mom is without a job or health insurance. I am looking for work, but I am looking out of the country.

Don’t worry we will be fine. I am a fighter, and I have to hold strong for my daughter. Besides there is always Canada…

I love my country. I am very proud to be American, but when I cannot provide my child with medical care, it is time to look elsewhere. I hooked my Canuck years ago. Our relationship is stronger than ever. It’s always interesting, an American and a Canadian dating; it is like our own romantic version of Canadian Bacon.Labels: ,

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:17 PM

Bush Got a Better Colonoscopy Than Me


By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

DENVER — OK, so this discussion may be a little graphic for some, so bear with me, I do have a point to make. President George W. Bush had a colonoscopy done on Saturday morning, as you may already know since he had to give the vice president the reins of power for a couple of hours. President Bush has had other colonoscopies to remove polyps in his colon which could have become cancerous if left alone. So far, so good. Perfect medical strategy and just as I would want for any American.

What you may not have considered is that each and every time Mr. Bush has had a colonoscopy, he has done so under a government health plan — his care as the governor of Texas and his care now as our President — is paid for by you and me, the American taxpayers. And forevermore, if he needs another colonoscopy or God forbid one of those polyps is ever found to be cancerous, we will pay to make sure he is treated. This is just and humane. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now, the fact that he had a team of doctors and was comfortably attended to at Camp David for his procedure is a bit more than most Americans would ever experience, and I’m betting the cost was too. No denial for payment from Blue Cross or Humana for this procedure or any part thereof, I’m betting. No, you and I happily paid for this so the President didn’t need to worry himself before, during or after his colonoscopy.

My last colonoscopy was not the same. My experience was a little less dignified and a lot more expensive. And like the President, I’ve had a few of these since I’ve had polyps removed (and unlike Mr. Bush, because I am a cancer survivor and the polyps were shown to be pre-cancerous).

First of all, the prep for this procedure isn’t a pretty process. The patient, whether it is a president or a pauper, most clean out his or her colon before the exam by drinking a gallon (and I am not kidding) of a substance called Go-Lytely (and I am still not kidding).

The results, as you might imagine, are explosive. For hours, the patient cannot move far from restroom facilities. There are moves underway to make the prep easier and less inconvenient, but I’m told this process remains the “Gold Standard.” When I arrived at my local hospital for my last colonoscopy, I was ill. My head hurt so badly that I had to lean against a wall as the admissions team looked over my insurance information and had me sign financial guarantees of payment. I felt faint and wanted to throw up. I could feel my heart pounding — not quite in unison with my head, and I begged the clerk to hurry so I could get some help.

It turned out that the prep process had severely dehydrated me to the point that I could not sit still because of the pain, and the medical staff that finally saw me 25 minutes after I begged for help at the front desk had difficulty even starting an IV drip because my veins were so narrowed by the dehydration. They said that unless they could get the IV started they would not be able to do my colonoscopy. I would have cried, but now the nausea from the pain in my head was overwhelming and crying would have jarred all of that into reality.

Finally, the IV was set and I was given anti-nausea drugs, IV-fluids and a pain killer to attack the headache. And this was all before the colonoscopy could begin. I squirmed during the procedure and could feel some of the twists and turns of the tubing in my colon as the doctors chatted and I moaned a little. I’m betting Mr. Bush was made a bit more comfortable than I was.

When the procedure was done, I was in a recovery area with three other patients. I was tired and upset — more polyps removed just three years after the last — and I just wanted to be alone to grieve the process and the inhumanity.

But then Larry came in — my wonderful and brave husband — who gives me more support than I often deserve. We found my shoes, and we went home to our home where 100 degree temperatures and the lack of air-conditioning made this June afternoon a difficult one for napping following the colonoscopy.

This was my experience as a fully insured American receiving my most recent colonoscopy. Quite a contrast from President Bush’s government-funded procedure I paid for Saturday.

And yet earlier last week he held what he termed a “round table” on health care during which he said he would not support government-run health care for this nation. Really?

At the very least, Mr. President, I’d like to sit at that round table with you when this discussion continues. I have earned that through my payment for your health care and through my hard work and suffering.

I would ask you to consider that the process you went through for your colonoscopy was the top-of-the-line in terms of care. I do not begrudge you that. But why would you want any of your citizens to experience what is already a difficult experience with less dignity and less humanity than you did?

You call yourself a Christian, and I am too. I’m a Christian asking her President to start talking about justice and about concepts Christ would support — even at the end of a colonoscopy tube.Labels:

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Sunday, July 22, 2007 7:13 PM

The Growing Storm II: ‘SiCKO’ Draws Activists Together from Seattle to D.C.


Part 2: Allies for Action

By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After an afternoon of Congressional testimony, it was on to dinner, where leaders were gathered representing student activists (Remember the Students for a Democratic Society — SDS — folks? Well, students are re-organizing that group), anti-gun violence groups, anti-war groups, the Progressive Democrats of America and my new group — American Patients for Universal Health Care (APUHC).

We agreed that we need to cooperate on shared and coordinated action. Many groups are doing many things and doing them well. Rather than pursuing countless splintered causes, we must combine many of our efforts to create the necessary conditions for political change.

Many people acknowledged, as Tony Benn did so eloquently in ‘SiCKO,’ that the people who hold the key to change are those who feel powerless — the poor, the frightened and the demoralized.

We need the voices of people who are locked in an every day struggle for survival — paying the bills, staying safe in their neighborhoods — far removed from the political groups advocating for change. We agreed we must pursue strategies to reach the working poor, people of color, people of faith, and the shrinking middle class.

We will meet every two weeks to coordinate, and I will keep you posted on upcoming events and actions. ‘SiCKO’ has galvanized communities troughout the land. It is truly the evolution of a movement. Keep pushing, and together we will create change.Labels: , , , , ,

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Saturday, July 21, 2007 7:00 PM

The Growing Storm: ‘SiCKO’ Draws Activists Together from Seattle to D.C.


Part 1 of 3
SiCKO Testifies Before Congress

By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

WASHINGTON, D.C. – There is a growing storm throughout America. ‘SiCKO’ has launched the health care reform movement into the national arena with lightning-rod intensity. Groups that have labored alone and new groups forming are joining forces to settle in for the civil rights battle of this generation. We will stand together for passage of universal health care reform. And we will not wait another generation.

It had already been an extraordinary 48 hours. I testified in front of Congress on Tuesday, July 17, and told them how angry I am that they have not acted on health care reform. I sat on a witness panel with incredibly intelligent and committed people from Harvard Law School (Elizabeth Warren) and Harvard Medical School (David Himmelstein, also the founder of Physicians for a National Health Program) and the Access Project in Boston (Mark Rukavina).

Me, Donna Smith, average American, testified with these people. I was and am in awe. In the packed gallery of the hearing room were nurses and national health care reform leaders. Leaders from anti-war advocacy groups were also there. Groups represented at the hearing included: the California Nurses Association, Code Pink, HealthCare-Now and the Progressive Democrats of America, among others.

In the hours before and after the hearing, I met with Senators Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and lobbied not with money but with my heart and soul.

Later on during my trip, I visited with Sen. Tom Daschle, who no longer serves in the Senate, but sure should still be there. Though there is nothing to be gained by him in meeting with me, and my station in life certainly does not compare with his, he never fails to make me feel welcome to speak my mind and heart. He was the first person in Congress ever to hear me out on health care crisis – and he applauds my ever-expanding activism.

But my activism is not the only political passion expanding for health care reform in the weeks following the release of ‘SiCKO.’ Americans are gathering in many locations throughout the nation to plan post-’SiCKO’ action.Labels: , , , , , , , ,

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Sunday, July 15, 2007 10:30 PM

Go See the Movie First, Please!


By Larry Smith, American ‘SiCKO’

In recent weeks, I have grown weary of listening to one group of health care reform naysayers in particular. I can handle all the goofs who see ‘SiCKO’ and just don’t quite get it yet. Most of the time that’s the young folks who haven’t gotten sick or needed to use their insurance yet. I forgive their youthfulness and that sense of immortality.

The people who annoy me are those who haven’t even seen the movie and who recoil when asked if they have. Some are religious zealots who think Michael Moore is a communist, America-hating fellow. I don’t know where they get that sort of thinking, but most of what they say sounds sort of pre-programmed or scripted. It scares me a little. Brainwashed people are not free people.

But then I think back to a quote I read long ago by a British philosopher, Herbert Spencer, (OK, so I didn’t know he was a philosopher until Donna told me so — she looks up stuff like that just to make sure I’m not quoting something wrong). His thoughts go something like this, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

So, go see the film and then talk to me about it. You won’t catch something from all the universal health care supporters in the theater, you know. And you might just learn a little.Labels: , ,

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007 6:04 PM

Wield Your Mighty Pen for Us, Mr. President


By 9/11 first responder John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation

NEW YORK — A pen in my hands could make some difference in the lives around me, and I work through the FealGood Foundation to make sure the documents I sign relieve some of the suffering of my fellow 9/11 responders. If I could, I would use my pen as you used yours last week. I would save my buddies.

In commuting the prison sentence of your friend Scooter, you said you believed the sentence imposed was too severe. Boy, can I relate.

When I look at the life sentences imposed on 9/11 responders suffering with acute illness, financial and emotional ruin and nearly six long years of neglect by their city, state and federal government leaders, I fill with rage and frustration. You’ve seen some of us in ‘SiCKO,’ so I know you are aware of our plight. My pen can only relieve tiny bits of their suffering. Yours could lift much more.

In an instant, Mr. President, you could use your mighty pen to affirm the faith you put in all of us in the hours, days, weeks and months after 9/11 to be what you called heroes and send a message to the world that Americans stand together in the face of threat.

With one stroke, you could issue and sign an executive order that would open clinic and hospital doors to 9/11 responders who are ill and without life-saving medical care.

Do you understand the betrayal of trust and confidence we feel? Just as Scooter took the hit for others in your circle of friends, my brothers and sisters took the dust and debris, the shock and the danger, the toxins and the smoke for everyone in America as we worked at ground zero so long ago.

We need you to feel for us – the folks you called out as heroes – the same passion and compassion that made you reach for your pen for Scooter. We need your help and we need it now. We have served a long sentence already. We have been punished for our actions on 9/11. We do not understand exactly what the crimes were in rushing in to help, nor do we understand how you can turn your back on us still. We were there with you. We believed what you told us. We trusted you with our lives.

So, Mr. President, won’t you please lift that pen again as you have done for Scooter Libby? The order could be simple, as a start:

“All 9/11 responders from this day forward shall be entitled to the care they need. A violation of this order will not be tolerated. These men and women are to be treated in every way as heroes, not unlike U.S. soldiers on the battlefield.” — Signed…

A signature today would save lives. It would save dignity. It might even tell the world that you are a man of your word, and that a contract made with your nation’s heroes is not to be broken. Please use your pen today. Many lives depend on it.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but your signature on this action may well be worth more than a thousand lives. Stand aside, Scooter, your president has some more commutations to issue. And the 9/11 responders are finally first in line.Labels: , ,

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Friday, July 6, 2007 4:16 PM

Rep. John Conyers: Moore’s ‘Sicko’ a Reminder That No One’s Immune to Nation’s Ailing Insurance System


By Rep. John Conyers

The need for universal health care has never been more urgent. There are now 47 million Americans with no health insurance at all, including 8 million children. Eighteen thousand Americans die each year as a direct consequence of being uninsured, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Recent studies indicate that medical debt is the leading cause of both bankruptcy and homelessness. These facts are unacceptable in the richest country in the world.

Last Friday, June 29th, Michael Moore’s new documentary, “Sicko,” opened in theaters across the country. “Sicko” illustrates the human impact of a health care system based on profit instead of patients. The most disturbing and compelling aspect of the film is that the heartbreaking personal stories it features are not about our nation’s 47 million uninsured. They are about people who actually had health insurance when they were forced into bankruptcy due to medical debt or when a family member died because he or she was denied necessary care.

By focusing on Americans who have health insurance coverage, Moore’s film shows us that no one is immune from our nation’s sick health care system.

The stories highlighted in the film are impossible to ignore or explain away, and that is why I believe that the release of “Sicko” is one of the most important developments in our public debate since the Clintons tried to pass universal health care legislation in 1994.

Last Wednesday, we screened clips from “Sicko” for members of Congress and heard testimony from Mr. Moore, as well as Americans featured in the film. The response was tremendous. More than 15 members of Congress were in attendance, including one Republican, and people lined up in the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building to get a peek.

“Sickness doesn’t know Democrat or Republican,” Moore said following the testimony of Dawnelle Keys, whose 18-month old daughter died when she was denied antibiotics because an ambulance took her to the emergency room nearest to her home, which happened not to be “in-network” for Keys’ HMO.

“This is not a political issue. I can’t imagine anyone that doesn’t believe that every American has the human right to see a doctor when they get sick and not have to worry about whether or not they can afford it,” Moore said. “There should be no profit in curing disease.”

I agree. And for this reason I have proposed H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act, which would establish a publicly financed, privately delivered single payer health care system based on expanding and improving Medicare. H.R. 676 currently has 74 cosponsors in Congress and is supported by eight international unions, 14,000 physicians, two state houses and dozens of county and municipal governments across the country.

These supporters have come to recognize a fundamental truth, as have the governments of all the other industrialized countries of the world: Single-payer financing is the only way we can afford to cover all our citizens with high-quality health care.Permalink | DIGG | Del.icio.us | Reddit

Thursday, July 5, 2007 8:01 PM

My Own Road to ‘SiCKO’


By Eric Turnbow, the “Fifth Beatle” appearing in ‘SiCKO’

SEATTLE, WA — Everyone is full of congrats and affection about this lucky break I caught and the “15 minutes of fame” I will receive by actually making it into the Michael Moore movie ‘SiCKO.’ I am very excited and quite passionate about this subject. My part is just a small segue that moves the story from Canada and its health care system, over to England and its universal care which I was able to use in a great way while vacationing there in London some 10 years ago.

So here is a journal of my proud day at the movie premier on Thursday, June 14th in Seattle, when I got a rare chance to meet Michael Moore and see his innovative and eye-opening documentary, ‘SiCKO.’

First off, they called from Hollywood and invited me to go just one day before the event. I was asked to RSVP, so I cleared my schedule ASAP, hired someone to fill in for me at The Viking, and chose a “guest” to come along and share this cool moment with me. My sister Katherine had emailed me offering to go if it came up. In fact she was the only one with the exception of her son that showed any interest in driving so far just to see a movie. It also helps that she lives in Seattle! Duh! So I asked her and she said yes. Very cool.

We were to meet at the venue by the Paramount just off Pine Street called “AMC Pacific Cinemas,” which was on the fourth floor of a shopping mall. My sis wanted to buy me lunch, so we were to meet at 5 p.m., giving us over an hour before we needed to check in with Michael Moore’s crew. I left Olympia around 3:42 p.m., and with a little traffic hassle here and there I actually arrived at the theater by 5:07 p.m. I did not make even one wrong turn and landed in the parking garage in the same building as the theater! Katherine was stuck in traffic, but arrived within a half-hour. We had delicious Margaritas and chicken quesadillas at a little Mexican bar just a small walk away from the venue. Yummy.

So we checked in as VIPs, and were escorted to a roped-off section of the screening room and sat with the press. Michael Moore arrived with his sister, Anne Moore, who greeted me and said, “You are the one that provided some much needed comic relief in the middle of our little picture, thank you.” And that was coming from one of the producers! Michael greeted the crowd and announced he would have a question and answer session after the film. Then he took his seat about three feet from us, directly in front of me, down two rows.

So we watched the flick. I loved it! I say, just go and see it. I do not want to spoil it for you. I will say that my part arrives about halfway through the film. Michael plowed through four hours of my vacation videos and carefully edited them down for this transitional time in the movie. They included:

∙The plane ride to England.
∙Singing an a capella original song “Oh England” at the London hotel with my friend Ken.
∙Sitting on the steps of the legendary “Abbey Road Studios” where the Beatles recorded the bulk of their work. I was shooting the cover art for my debut album “I’m Alive,” which was released in 1998.
∙My famous fall on Abbey Road where I was walking on my hands for the unique photo opportunity.
∙Waking up in the hospital after having my shoulder pushed back into place by English medics.
∙Enjoying my “less than $10″ medication that came along with me FREE MEDICAL SERVICE!

Michael makes the comment that I had to enjoy London, “My own way.” He then proceeds to go to England to see if what I say is true about the meds and the FREE health care. If you watch the entire credits, my name appears in alphabetical order, just above Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam fame!

So after the movie, Michael addressed the crowd for about a half hour. The first thing he did was point me out by name, and I got a loud cheer of recognition. This was the highlight for me. I stood up and put my hands in the air in acknowledgment, and the he said something like, “Eric gives hope to all those musicians in the world out there.” So that was awesome.

On the way out of the complex I was actually recognized by several people. This was cool, since in the film I was sporting a beard, a mustache, and much longer hair. All in all it was a great night, quite a highlight for a young kid like me from Olympia, Washington! Thanks, Mike!

My sister Katherine seemed to enjoy herself, so I dropped her at her car and headed back to Olympia with a big smile on my face. And there you have it. Thanks, everyone, for your support and interest. By all means go and see this movie! It opened on June 29th, and I simply cannot wait to see it again!Labels: , , , , ,

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007 1:13 PM

Life Before and After the 1996 Congressional Testimony


An Update by Linda Peeno

I began work in the health care industry through a part-time job, which I thought would be temporary while I took a couple of years to care for my children. When I realized that something called “managed care” was beginning to radically change the nature of medicine and the care of patients, I left the clinical practice of medicine to concentrate on public education and patient protection. In the early 1990’s, few people understood how deadly the “system” of managed care had become. Corporations created “black boxes” of hidden tactics, schemes, and processes designed to put profits over patients into which few could see. As an “insider,” I tried to use my knowledge to help others with power to make change. Initially it was difficult, for few people listened or cared. Slowly, though, the stories of harm and death to patients began to break through and the public, professionals, advocacy groups, media and policy-makers began to take note. The first major Congressional hearing on “managed care” was held in May of 1996, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to share my experiences.

After that hearing, I felt an increased urgency about the need for change. With the rising attention to the problems, more people came forward to tell about their plights. I threw myself into the work, sinking every bit of energy, time and other resources into as much education and assistance as I could possibly give. I knew that with each passing week, more people suffered. At every turn, it looked as if we might achieve some change. Congress might pass effective patient protection or rid the industry of the ERISA loophole (that protects managed care companies from legal accountability for some of their decisions). States might protect patients or help the uninsured. Health plans and other organizations might become more patient-centered. Health care professionals, especially doctors, might revolt. I dreamed big dreams, but watched as one thing after another failed to materialize in ways that made significant differences to the real lives of patients. Meanwhile, I have watched the health industry increasingly turn us all into “consumers” and medicine into a commodity, casting us all into the marketplace in which our health and life becomes something we are expected to buy and sell like cars, computers, or any other commercial good. We now get what we can pay or fight for, which means many of us don’t get what we need, and many others are discovering that even with money, they suffer. Money isn’t enough to buy a caring, competent nurse at the bedside, a doctor who puts patients first, a safe hospital or patient-centered organization, or all the other ways of providing compassion, care, attention, tenderness, and value as a human being.

The years since 1996 became increasingly tough and often dispiriting, especially as I witnessed thousands new stories of harm and death, watched a system grow more sophisticated in its profiteering and cruelty, and faced my own limitations (as well as those of others) to make a difference. However, despite moments of deep despair and sadness for the prices that have been paid by many, many people, I have never given up hope that we would eventually wake up collectively and say “enough.” Health care is a universal medium. We are all mortal and vulnerable. We need one another. There are some things money cannot buy and the market cannot sell. During the past couple of years, I have experienced these lessons directly and I have been both humbled and transformed in ways statistics and theories could not achieve.

Though we desperately need radical health reform and urgent patient protections, a change in policy will not be enough. We need a change of heart and spirit with equal urgency. We need to create a culture of care, compassion, and connection – not just for health care, but for all our ways of need for one another.

The year 1996 marked a threshold – a time when a few patient stories ceased to be only anecdotes and became evidence of a well-designed, evolving system of potential harm and death. Now 2007 marks another threshold – a time when the breakdown of medicine and health care is evidence of a more fundamental breakdown in our societal and cultural values. Little happened in 1996, and things became unimaginably worse and many more people suffered. If little happens now, we are going to find that life from this point on will be shockingly unbearable for more and more people in more and more ways. Who of us will give a life this time for inaction? For me, 2007 marks a new phase of life-commitment, one that has now broadened beyond health care. We cannot have a care-centered health care system until we have a care-centered society, and I am personally committed to another round of sinking whatever I have – energy, time and other resources – into that work. At least, in this next phase, I don’t think I am going to feel quite so alone in the struggle.Permalink | DIGG | Del.icio.us | Reddit

Monday, July 2, 2007 6:39 PM

No Whitewash Powerful Enough


By Donna Smith, proud American appearing in Michael Moore’s ‘SiCKO’

ATLANTA – It would be difficult to identify one moment over the past two weeks as the most powerful or moving. As my husband and I have traveled through the U.S. participating in premieres and screenings of Michael Moore’s new film,’SiCKO,’ we have experienced things that folks in our income range and social groups rarely do. We have been graciously included in events often closed to all but the most celebrated of celebs.

Michael Moore featured us in the film because we represent what is happening to so many Americans. Our health issues and health care costs drove us to bankruptcy and shame. The past several years have been filled with anguish, and the joy of watching this film begin to make an impact is healing for us.

But a few days ago in Atlanta, I found myself witness to and participant in a health care truth hearing sponsored by HealthCare-Now at the U.S. Social Forum. That hearing illuminated more truth – more stories – many like those shown in ‘SiCKO’. But the hearing also made it abundantly clear that no amount of slick advertising or marketing whitewash can cover up what Americans are enduring within this private health care system. The truth just cannot be hidden.

Listening to story after story about trauma and devastation suffered by fellow Americans who are uninsured or under-insured is difficult, even sickening. The moral issues cannot be avoided. And as Michael Moore asks in ‘SiCKO,’ “Who are we?”

But I also began to see a broader view of the whole private health care issue within one story told by a nearly toothless woman from Ohio. Though her speech was definitely impaired by her lack of teeth, she spoke with courage and without self-pity which might have been easier and certainly justified.

She had health insurance just a couple of years ago through her job. She worked, paid taxes and paid her health premiums. But when her dental problems became more and more serious, her insurance plan would not cover necessary treatment. It did cover removal of teeth. So, slowly but surely, her teeth were pulled.

She stood before us now in an open-air tent in the hot, thick, mid-day air in Atlanta. Huge fans circulated the air and could have drowned out her voice, but the crowd was silent and her strength was enough to overcome the background noise.

She told us that after her teeth were pulled, her employer fired her because she was “unsightly.” We gasped, but only in support of her not because we didn’t believe a modern American company would do such a thing. She told us that then she started down the steady slope towards homelessness and use of the public health system that included emergency room visits for health issues that might have been handled in a less acute and less expensive setting, if she had insurance or cash to use another provider.

This beautiful, powerful woman had been reduced to this. And she had most surely been yanked off the roles of taxpaying Americans and onto the public program rosters. How does this make even economic sense?

She goes from contributor to being a “drain” on the system nearly overnight. And as she slipped into deep poverty and homelessness, she also developed physical problems from her terrible living conditions and a lack of preventative or even early interventional health care.

Another scenario for her could have been, if we had universal health care, that she had her dental problems addressed properly and her teeth saved, kept her job and her modest housing, continued paying taxes and eventually moved forward in her life. Even if I remove all the hideous, non-compassionate ethical considerations, it just flat seems smarter to me that we stop this cycle.

Every American product now includes in its cost a certain percentage of mark-up for health costs and coverage provided by American businesses. On large ticket items, like cars, that cost increase can often be several hundred dollars. Since most Americans finance the purchase of cars, they now also pay interest on the amount that the car manufacturer must pass along in health care costs for its employees.

Those costs have mounted in every industry across the nation. In many cases, those increased costs are making American products and services less competitive thereby driving the increased dependence on foreign products and the loss of American jobs. This cycle is well-documented. Every major news organization has done reports on the issue, and few arguments countering this cause-effect economic pattern have been offered.

Small businesses can often not afford to even offer health coverage at all or offer only plans with high premiums and deductibles which are more like catastrophic coverage.

So this whole private health insurance system is costing us all – top to bottom, morally and economically.

So why do we keep it up? Do we see those toothless individuals and still think, “It couldn’t happen to me?” Or do we step over them on our way to our American dreams, still believing we did it the right way and they did it wrong? Poor people have poor ways, don’t you know.

After sitting in that hot tent in Atlanta and listening to this woman with more dignity than any person I’ve yet to meet on this marvelous journey toward changing this system, I realized that this fight will take much more than a call for moral justice or outrage.

The battle to pass House Resolution 676, single-payer, universal health care, as offered by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and 75 other co-sponsors, will take moral indignation, no doubt.

But the fight for universal health care will also take a tearing at the very fabric of the American psyche – that independent streak that makes us pioneers and homesteaders and internet start-up gurus.

We all grew up with this gut full of self-righteousness, lightly colored with compassion as we attended church each Sunday. But now we need to flip-flop the equation a bit.

We’ll need economists on board to really compare the costs of the whole package: including a very direct assessment of how universal health care would play out in an average family’s budget and in the budget’s of the SUV-driving, three-car-garage in the suburbs owning families.

Let’s get really down to the nuts and bolts of the reality. Toothless, unemployed, uninsured women cost us serious money. If we cannot see her pain and see her humanity, then can we at least run the numbers?

As for me, I don’t need to run the numbers. I see the costs for her. I feel the costs for myself in the lack of self-respect I feel when I realize I am part of the system that is doing this to her and hundreds of thousands of others. And I know that I never again want to hear a fellow American woman stand before me apologizing for her lisp due to a loss of teeth and assuring me that she once had a beautiful smile.

That cost is simply unacceptable on any level. There is no political spin fast enough or whitewash dense enough to cover this American woman’s truth.

Checkup on the Facts

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 5:11 PM

‘SiCKO’ Premieres on Skid Row

By Rev. Andrew J. Bales, President of the Union Rescue Mission

How often does a big time Hollywood Movie premiere on Skid Row? Never in anyone’s memory, until last night! It started out as a wild idea to shut down one of the toughest streets in America and show the movie, Sicko, to some of the folks who were featured in the movie, but would not likely have an opportunity to walk a red carpet or even see this powerful film in theaters, and huge-hearted film maker Michael Moore made it all happen just outside the back doors of Union Rescue Mission.

We closed the streets down at 4:00 P.M.; men began building a platform and back drop for a 37 foot Screen. It was a bit windy so our Mission staff weaved together several tarps as a wind break. 600 chairs were set up in a theater setting on the street, and a magnificent projector and deck were brought in by the Weinstein Company, and what seemed impossible happened.

San Julian St. became a walk-in theater! Michael Moore personally came to salute these folks who live a tough life on the streets. I introduced Michael as a man who shared with the House Judiciary Committee that his motivation for making this film about healthcare came word for word from the book of Matthew, chapter 25. Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The crowd went wild with enthusiasm that Michael Moore himself came to greet them and share words of wisdom with them. I thanked Michael later — just before he rushed off for another event — telling him that he had brought a night of joy to folks that really live in what only can be described as “hell” on earth. More than that, he affirmed them and their dignity as people of great importance. Throughout the movie I heard their hearty amen’s to the injustice that they have experienced first hand in America. Folks have been thanking me for acting as a host throughout the day.

Thank you, Michael, for making this once-in-a-lifetime event possible! Thank you, most of all, for speaking up for justice for folks who until now, have not had a voice.

Checkup on the Facts

What Can I Do?
Michael Moore's Health Care Proposal
About the Film
Links and Resources
SiCKO Blog
Canadian Waiting Room
SiCKOS for Sale
Side Effects
See the SiCKO Trailer
Prehistoric SiCKO
Press Room


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Thursday, December 6, 2007 11:45 AM

Seattle Turns Out For ‘SiCKO’ in Spite of Storm


By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

SEATTLE – Though hurricane force winds and torrential rains blasted the Seattle area throughout most of the day on Monday, students, local activists and interested community members took the weather in stride as they gathered to watch ‘SiCKO’ and to talk health reform with me – since I am one of the subjects of the film, they had sponsored my trip to the area and I am deeply involved in the health care reform movement.

The Seattle Central Community College classroom was the perfect venue for viewing ‘SiCKO’ and those present could hear sirens blaring and storm weather continuing as the afternoon showing began and later on as an even larger group turned out for the evening event. More than 280 people attended the viewings and the Q&A sessions afterwards.

Some of the students who attended made hasty farewells as they set off to deal with flooded basements and the meeting with landlords to begin drying out from the rains.

While a few of those present wondered about the Cuba trip Michael Moore took when filming ‘SiCKO,’ most wanted more information about how to help assure that real change will occur in health care reform on the national front, and many wanted to learn more about HR676, the National Health Insurance Act currently gathering more Congressional co-sponsors to add to the 86 representatives already on board supporting the single-payer plan.

HR676 would set up publicly-financed, privately delivered health care for every American resident. The bill was originally co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. A national road show promoting HR676 is currently touring the southeastern states and will wrap up in Pittsburgh on Dec. 14. The road show is co-sponsored by Healthcare-Now, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the California Nurses Association (CNA) and the National Nurse Organizing Committee.

The Seattle single-payer, universal health care group that sponsored ‘SiCKO’ showings and Q&A sessions with me is called “Right to Health Care Now!”, and it began after several community members saw ‘SiCKO’ during its original release and began holding forums to discuss the issue and actions to be taken in support of reform. The group holds its organizing meetings at 7 p.m. each Monday evening in Room 4183 at Seattle Central Community College . Phi Theta Kappa, the college honor society, and OWL, the voice of midlife and older women, also co-sponsored the events on campus, along with several other campus organizations and clubs.