How Far have Uninsured Americans Come Since Michael Moore’s “Sicko”
Jun 19th, 2013
It’s been nearly six years since Michael Moore released his 2007 documentary “Sicko” profiling uninsured Americans and the inadequacies of the American health care system. Moore’s unique, witty take on the subject of American healthcare struck a chord with audiences, raking in over $24 million.
The film sparked some lively debate on all sides of the political spectrum about America’s health care system. Notable scenes like when Moore takes a group of 9/11 first responders to Cuba for health treatment are the kind that stay with you. Moore takes them there because these folk can’t afford treatment in the states and can’t purchase health insurance because of their pre-existing conditions resulting from breathing the air at Ground Zero.
But now though the Affordable Care Act is set to come into effect next year. The legislation has been touted by President Obama and his administration as the major overhaul to the American health care system that we’ve all been waiting for. So is it? I thought it might be helpful to talk about a few of the things discussed in the documentary and compare them to the system now.
A large part of Moore’s film focuses on American’s with pre-existing conditions who have been denied insurance coverage. One heart wrenching scene involves an interview with a former insurance company employee about pre-existing conditions.
So what has changed since that interview? Quite a few things actually. You can now longer be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition. The full abolishment of the practice will happen in 2014 when the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act become law.
Actually those with a pre-existing condition have had access to high risk insurance pools for medical coverage since the law was signed. So in effect pre-existing conditions are no longer an insurmountable obstacle to health insurance.
The Number of Uninsured Americans
In his film Moore lists the number of uninsured Americans at over 54 million based on 2006 number from the Center for Disease Control. That’s a pretty substantial number. The majority of Moore’s film focuses on profiling some of them and highlighting their plight.
So where do we stand now?
According to numbers from the United States Census Bureau released in September 2012 the number of uninsured Americans in 2011 dropped to 48.6 million. Despite the seemingly small increase it’s actually the biggest jump in the number of insured Americans since 1999. Considering the 2008 – 2009 financial crisis, that’s not too bad.
The Affordable Care Act is to blame for at least some of that bump, especially because of a provision allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26.
United States Ranked Health Care Ranked 37th in the World
Moore references this information in the film a couple of times. It comes from a 2000 report from the World Health Organization. The report placed the United States health care system right after Costa Rica’s.
At the time of its release the report stirred up controversy in the United States with experts of all stripes calling it inaccurate and accusing the WHO of using misleading information to compile the report. In their subsequent reports following the outcry over, the WHO has declined to rerank the systems. So this statistic does not seem likely change any time soon.
Single Payer Health care
This is something that Moore talks about in depth, and seems to be the his real recommendation for America’s health care problems. He visits other countries with single payer systems and challenges the American idea that “socialist societies” are bad things.
Now in 2013 we’re not heading for a single payer health care system. The Affordable Care Act establishes a quasi private insurance system that is still heavily influenced by free market ideas and trends with the addition of a few government controls to level the playing field.
Moore’s documentary was groundbreaking at the time because of the ideas he presented to such a wide swath of the American public. Now with major health care reform less than six months away many Americans stand to benefit from the expanded access to coverage it will bring. But the health insurance system under the Care Act will still be subject to the market, which has it pros and cons.
Whether President Obama’s attempt at reforming the American health care system will be the complete transition he hoped remains to be seen. However it’s clear that progress has been made on healthcare in America under his watch. More people are insured and are paying less for that insurance. The question is where will we be in six years from now when the Affordable Care Act is in full swing?
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Posted in: Simon Bukai | Comments Off