SiCKO -  Why a growing number of Conservatives agree with Michael Moore on Healthcare Reform

By James J. Murtagh, M.D.

(James Murtagh spent 20 years as an Intensive Care Unit physician. Dr. Murtagh is a member of Semmelweis Society International and has hosted several Congressional forums on the Healthcare Integrity Project.)

Michael Moore and Al Gore now are the most influential political film makers of all time. A dynamic duo, Gore and Moore sound an alarm, as once did Winston Churchill, "The era of procrastination, is coming to a close. We are entering a period of consequences." Our heads must come out of the sand, or our children will amazedly wonder why America slept as the coming storm darkened the sky.

Now for a shocker. Conservatives (of whom I sometimes am a fellow traveler), are actually starting to agree with Michael Moore's film SiCKO. Medical reform is necessary to protect conservative values! We need to put good faith back into medicine.

Lee Iacocca bluntly states, "our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs."  Iacocca asks: "Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. This is America, not the damned Titanic." Lee, like Gore and Moore, faces up to inconvenient truths.

Margaret Thatcher would say we are not, "getting value for money." We spend one of six dollars of the entire U.S. economy (16%!) for health care- 2.1 trillion a year- ten times the entire budget of the United States was in 1976. It is unfathomable how much money. Soon, one quarter of every dollar in your pocket will be consumed by health care. This is a lot more than what we spent on World War II, or anything else in American history.

This is just un-American. The medical system is choking the business of America, which is business. Skyrocketing and ineffective medical costs choke out enterprise, initiative and innovation. People can't afford to be pioneers, or to even criticize their corporations for fear of losing health benefits.

On top of it all, more than 40% of our health care spending goes to administration, not to help sick people, or to paying the doctor or nurse.

People used to be afraid that health care reform would lead to socialism. Now, we need health care reform to save us from the de facto socialized current anti-capitalistic health care system.

The American Medical Association (AMA) hasn't caught on yet, but now less than 25% of doctors are card-carrying members of the AMA. The AMA, now represents Big Medicine HMOs, and is no longer the voice of Marcus Welby-like doctors. New groups, like the Semmelweis society, are springing up to represent the true voice of American doctors

Conservatives don't like Moore's style, appearance, or theatrics, but there are conservative ideas at the heart of his movie. Sure, the boat trip to Cuba was off-putting to some. But hey, it is a movie, and Moore needed to sell tickets. No capitalist could criticize Moore for needing to make a buck.

I think Moore can and should broaden his appeal. Think of 1968 college students scrubbing up to "get clean for Gene," so their candidate, Eugene J. "Gene" McCarthy would have national appeal. Moore's work is so valuable, I hope he would consider small style changes so his substance would shine brighter. Moore is such a talented film maker that he could win over both the right and left wings of the nation. If we are going to get the airplane of reform off the ground, we are going to need both wings.

Ronald Reagan believed, "your freedom to swing your fist ends at my nose." It follows no one has the freedom to sneeze an unhealthy bug up my nose. Multi-drug resistant TB, and dozens of other lethal bugs, incubate in people lacking health care. Don't forget, a homegrown Influenza strain in 1918-1919 killed 50-100 million people, in the worst medical holocaust in history, dwarfing the bloodshed of World War I. No bioterrorist could inflict that kind of devastation unless we help by continuing a warped medical system.

A country divided against itself on access to health cannot stand. When pandemic comes, do not send to ask for whom the bell tolls, since every one suffers and foots the bill from pandemic.

Look at the social cost of sleep disorders. 25% of Americans suffer from sleep disorder, mostly untreated, and then everyone is at risk from huge traffic and industrial accidents. Sleep apnea causes more car accidents than alcohol. It takes a nation to create a healthy, productive work force, and if we want people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they need to be healthy first. Our security depends on it.

Who would agree with Scrooge that Tiny Tim should die to "decrease the surplus population?" Conservatives believe in the right to life. Surely, the persons with compassion for Linda Shiavo would not pull the plug on Tiny Tim.

Dr. Linda Peeno (my friend, and a member of Semmelweis) testified in SiCKO that Big Medicine HMOs in America rip off the public, and let people die.

Ronald Reagan hated "waste, fraud and corruption." Martin Luther King declared ""Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." This issue is ripe for bipartisan cooperation.

Could a bipartisan "dream team" bring real reform? Could business heavyweights like Lee Iacocca team up with Gore and Moore before it is too late?

This is not a time for sunshine patriots. Now, the right and the left to unite for love of our country. In ten years, let's not wonder why America Slept. Instead, this can and will be America's finest hour.  Frankly, we don't have any choice but to face the coming storm now.

* Doctors for Integrity in Healthcare urge bipartisan discussion of this important film.

James J. Murtagh Jr., MD, Atlanta GA 30329