Moore's 'Sicko' Provokes Debate

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - As filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary examining the healthcare system in the United States opened nationwide on Friday, health care specialists debated its accuracy and some of the issues it raises.

According to Moore, "Sicko" exposes "the health care industry's greed and control over America's political processes."

He advocates for universal healthcare coverage paid for by the government, and for all health insurance companies to be "abolished."

Sarah Berk, executive director of the advocacy group Health Care America, praised Moore for pushing the healthcare issue higher up the agenda, saying the debate was needed.

"But that's where the praise for Michael Moore ends because the reality is that in his film 'Sicko' he plays fast and loose with the facts and he doesn't tell both sides of the story," she said.

"[Moore] suggests that government-run healthcare is the solution to all of America's healthcare problems," Berk said.

"While we do have problems with our system, a government takeover of our system is not the answer."

Berk noted that Moore suggests the healthcare systems in countries including Canada, Cuba, and France are better than the system in the United States.

"In fact, he calls Canada's healthcare system fabulous ... the reality is that if you look at the facts, one million Canadians are on a waiting list to receive care, four million cannot find a family practitioner," she argued.

"It takes eight weeks for someone to access an MRI, four weeks to access a CAT scan, the average time between when someone sees a general practitioner and a specialist is 17.8 weeks, and then the patient is found to have cancer or another serious illness, they often have to wait four additional weeks to begin treatment for that illness," Berk added.

"The tragic examples in Michael Moore's movie had access to healthcare, they just couldn't afford it," Berk said. The problem "is not the structure, it's the fact that it's too expensive."

The view was disputed by Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program.

"Many nations with government-funded programs do not have a problem with waiting times," he told Cybercast News Service. "That should not be an issue here."

McCanne said that with proper oversight, long waiting times can be prevented. "The advantage we have is the $2.2 trillion we are already spending," he said. "That's more than enough money to make sure we have adequate capacity in our system.

"Michael Moore's movie really does provide a service," McCanne added. "It shows that our healthcare system is not working, that people who have insurance are falling through the cracks - that's the message.

"One of the major issues is the way we finance healthcare," McCanne said. "Private insurance is not serving us well, and we need to switch over to a public insurance program.

"It would insure everyone," he argued. "It would eliminate financial hardships that people who do have insurance are facing. It would provide better access to healthcare, because it would eliminate financial barriers to healthcare."

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