Last night I got to watch The Health Care Movie in a marvelous way.
After the showing I told Laurie and Terry that their movie about the American and Canadian health care systems was one of the best "cause" documentaries I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot.
The production is highly professional: beautifully edited, creative, humorous in parts. Most importantly, the movie is deeply moving.
I spent quite a few years as a health services researcher, health planner, and executive director of Oregon Health Decisions, a bioethics organization. Though I've been out of the health policy field for a long time, I consider myself pretty well informed in this area.
The Health Care Movie, though, opened my eyes to several important facts.
I wasn't much aware of the early efforts in this country to give every citizen access to health care, and how sleazily these were undercut by vested interests.
Nor did I know much about how the Canadian health care system got going (it is called Medicare in the movie, sort of jarring for old folks like me who are happily enjoying the benefits of the United States' similar 65+ single-payer system).
The person-on-the-street interviews with people in both Canada and the United States are terrific. These were done by Portlander Lindsay Caron. She has a very engaging personality and onscreen presence. A "demo reel" I found on You Tube shows Caron doing her thing.
The film also shows interviews with leading Canadian politicians and, I recall, the head of the Canadian Medical Association. It's clear that Canada's single-payer health care is highly popular, though naturally not without flaws.
Canada spends about half as much per person on health care as the United States does, yet has better health outcomes. This wasn't new news to me. But seeing Canadians talk about their Medicare was.
In our group's post-showing conversation about The Health Care Movie, we talked about how different Canadian attitudes toward helping their fellow citizens is.
Bluntly put, us Americans come off looking self-centered and selfish by comparison. Which is fair, because we are. We put too much emphasis on indvidualism, and not enough on promoting the common good. Sadly, our screwed-up health care system reflects this messed-up valuing of competition over compassion.
Some people are bound to end up on the bottom of society's rise-to-the-top game. In Canada, nobody has to worry about suffering from a lack of health care if they do. In the United States, even after passage of the Affordable Care Act many citizens don't have health insurance.
The movie says the number is fifty million. At that point filmmaker Laurie said, "It's now forty-two million." (Since the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has brought health insurance to eight million.)
We can do a lot better. The Affordable Care Act is a good first step.
However, a single payer system -- aptly termed "Medicare for all" -- would be a vast improvement. Costs would be lower because most of the administrative overhead of private insurance companies would be eliminated, along with the multi-million dollar annual executive salaries.
Oregon, Laurie and Terry told our group, could be the first state to implement a single payer system.
My wife and I are fortunate to be on Medicare.
After so many years of suffering through Blue Cross of Oregon's double-digit premium increases, along with regular bureaucratic annoyances aimed at denying coverage for needed medical care, we're hugely happier to be on a single-payer system.
Everybody in this country should have what we enjoy, not just those over 65.
Let's make Oregon the first state to show that a single payer system for everybody can work in this country as well as it does in Canada.