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
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