As the debate around the future of America's healthcare rages on in the Supreme Court and the media, with many observers suggesting that the conservatives members of the court plan to strike down part or all of "Obamacare"–a moniker that seems flattering rather than invasive (why not have a president who cares?)–I'd like to offer a little educational viewing for our high justices. Here are four healthcare related movies they need to see (feel free to add some more suggestions):
"Sicko" — After I saw Michael Moore's "Sicko" at the Cannes Film Festival, I dared Rush Limbaugh to see the director's latest expose and not shed a tear for the victims of America's unjust healthcare system. In an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post, I wrote: "Everyone — Democrat, Republican, from sea to shining sea — knows someone who has been fucked over by the U.S. healthcare system. Or has been fucked over themselves. It's no exaggeration: people are being killed by the giant insurance and hospital-industrial complex, as Sicko piercingly and movingly conveys. Tapping into the raw emotion of this injustice, the movie has the power to unite all of us who have played the maddening game with insurance companies, wondering whether this or that medical procedure will be covered, and for how much…. Say what you will about Michael Moore, and many have, but with Sicko he's tapped into a source of pain and frustration that transcends political beliefs. There will be lots to criticize and pick apart, facts will be challenged (rightly), and the movie will engender lots of debate, hopefully. But the central point rings true: the U.S. healthcare system does not serve the American people, and with baby boomers retiring in 2008, it's only going to get far worse."
"Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" — From this year's Sundance Film Festival, Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke's film takes up where "Sicko" left off, though with less outrage and more viable solutions. Five years later, "Escape Fire" chronicles such continuing issues as prevention vs. treatment; the system's dependency on drugs; corporate profits vs. patient care; and the health care industry's refusal to reform.
"The Waiting Room" — With a recent premiere at the estimable True/False Film Festival and a slot on PBS' Independent lens, this doc about a emergency room in California is generating good word of mouth. Indiewire's Press Play blog called the film "a portrait of the wreckage of late capitalism… Taken as a whole, The Waiting Room takes the measure of a systemic failure, where science, faith, and simple logistics–it goes into some detail about the logistics of ER triage–are all completely insufficient."
"Contagion" — The Centers for Disease Control and its staffers come across as pretty heroic in Steven Soderbergh's excellent 2011 epidemic thriller. While the movie, of course, doesn't plumb the depths of the healthcare industry's dysfunctional nature and its mistreatment of individuals, it does show how government forces can work with private scientists to find solutions to our healthcare problems. No one is evil in the film, and even the government bureaucracy is shown as having a heart–something unheard of in mainstream culture. Nationalized systems of medicine aren't all bad; in fact, they could even save the world.