Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Year 9, Day 151 - 5/31/17 - Movie #2,646

BEFORE: Last night's trip around the world reminded me that I haven't even started binge-watching "The Amazing Race" yet, and the finale is going to air tomorrow.  So I've got to start watching at least 2 episodes each night, if I'm going to have any chance to watch the finale before I see a spoiler online.  Fortunately the identity of the winners of a reality show isn't quite the big deal that it used to be.  Still, I can maybe get 4 or 6 episodes watched this week and get to the rest early next week, so the best I can hope for is to be about a week behind.  That's kind of where I spend most of my time, anyway.

Michael Moore carries over from "Where to Invade Next", and it's kind of a step backwards, since this was a documentary he made back in 2007, and we've had two new presidents since then.  I know I'm coming late to the party here, but health care as a political topic just does not seem to be going away, so this look at the pre-Obamacare system is long overdue for me.

THE PLOT: A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care system to those of other nations, and relating HMO horror stories.

AFTER: There's a quick key to understanding a Michael Moore film, and I probably don't even have to tell you that it's "Republicans are bad, Democrats are good".  Here he places the blame for the U.S. healthcare crisis (the one before Obamacare, anyway) on Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.  Reagan apparently made a record album at some point that equated universal healthcare with socialism, and from then on I guess the Republicans regarded it as a slippery slope - one day you're providing medical care to the lower middle class, and the next day everyone is working on a collective farm and sharing cows.  And then there's audio tape of Nixon saying something good about HMO's, so clearly he's to blame also.

But as we all know, Hilary Clinton took on this issue when she was First Lady, and how dare she actually try to accomplish something, instead of just decorate the White House, perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe and pose for photo ops, which is what's expected of a woman in the White House, right?  The Republicans refused to work with her healthcare ideas -whether it was because they were threatened by her femininity or because she technically wasn't an elected official at the time, we may never know.  Then the pendulum swung the other way for two terms, and nobody tried to fix healthcare until Obama was elected.  At which point, Obamacare was introduced, its web-site worked perfectly from Day One, and the healthcare crises was solved forever.  Ha ha, just kidding.

Say what you will about Obamacare, I'm sure it wasn't perfect, but goddammit, at least somebody tried.  It turned the game on its ear and said that everyone at least had the opportunity to be insured, and if you wanted to roll the dice and live without healthcare, that's fine - but we'll get you on the back end and you'll have to pay a penalty on your tax return.  And now President Cheeto-head wants to "repeal and replace", or at least let's do the first part and then maybe in a year or two we'll get to the second part, which is a bit like the way the water company tears up your street and then repaves it, without checking to see if the electric company also needs to get in there next week.  (OK, maybe that's not the best analogy, it's just what happens on my block.). It's a bit like knocking down a load-bearing wall in your house without putting in anything to support the second floor.

But tonight I've returned to a simpler and cruder time, back when you couldn't get health insurance if you had something called a pre-existing condition - nothing with the prefix "pre-" tends to make sense.  You don't really pre-heat your oven, because you can't heat it before you heat it, so those baking instructions really should say to "heat your oven to 350 degrees, then put in the food".  And as George Carlin once pointed out, it's impossible to "pre-board" the plane - once you set foot on it, you're boarding, not pre-boarding.  And so on.  So the insurance companies could have just gone with "existing condition", if you think about it.

Moore set out to find the worst medical insurance horror stories, and I'm sure there are always going to be a few out there - that's been the case ever since the insurance companies gained the power to deny coverage in the first place.  And while these decisions used to be based on actuarial tables (actuaries are fun guys - they love to calculate when you're going to croak...) at some point greedy people realized they could make more money just by denying coverage to sick people and only granting it to healthy people.  Which makes the whole thing feel something like a casino, where you're betting you're going to live forever, which is impossible - and you only want to buy coverage if you need it, but if you wait until you need it, it's too late.

Look, unlike our President I'm smart enough to realize that I'll never understand this issue - I only know that I'm lucky enough to have health insurance, and it's good to know it's there.  In some way I don't quite understand why insurance companies don't take everyone on, because more customers means more payments and more income, if not more profit.  I was on the phone the other day with my parents' cable provider because they wouldn't send a technician to fix their cable box until they spoke with the person whose name is on the account, which turned out to be my father.  But since I pay their cable bill, I was screaming at the customer service rep, threatening to stop paying the bill unless they sent a repair tech ASAP - I just didn't understand why they got so caught up in their petty rules, because the main goal was to provide service, not stick to the rules, and sticking to the rules wasn't getting the cable box fixed.  Apparently there's a rash of phone pranksters up in Massachusetts who delight in calling the cable company to request fake service calls and waste their time, or perhaps there are rampant squatters who break into people's houses to watch free cable and then call the repair techs when the boxes don't work.

A sick person is sort of like that cable box - the goal should be to get it working again as soon as possible, and not get bogged down in any technicalities, like who's making the phone call, or whose name is on the account.  This is why people are clogging the E.R. rooms at the hospitals when they get sick and they don't have insurance, because in the E.R., they have to help everyone who walks in the door.  I think the problem just boils down to too many people, and it's high time for those evangelist Republicans to rethink their stances on abortion and birth control, because we've got too many Americans as it is, and their ideology is just not helping.

Moore's strongest argument might be that we already have socialized services in the U.S., namely police forces, fire departments, public schools and libraries, and those haven't turned us into Communists, so why not just add one more public service, healthcare, and then call it a day?

Moore then does a bit of what he later did in "Where to Invade Next", comparing the broken U.S. healthcare system to the ones in other countries, and then goes for the jugular by showing us people who were 9/11 first responders who have been denied medical coverage in the U.S. - even though they were promised coverage for their injuries, the amount of paperwork roadblocks that were put in their way often prevented them from getting the treatment they needed - meanwhile, our Congressmen get free medical care, something that we should think about taking away, if they're going to deny it to others.  The biggest gut-punch to these ailing heroes was the realization that the captured terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay were getting medical care, and they weren't.

So Moore took a bunch of these 9/11 heroes and sailed around Guantanamo Bay with a bullhorn, to request the same medical care for these Americans that our enemies were getting inside - which is one of those total dick moves that Moore is famous for, like ambushing CEOs that don't want to be interviewed or that shady crap he pulled in the gun store near Columbine.  I mean, come on, he KNEW that they weren't going to open up a military installation like Gitmo just to give some regular citizens a check-up, right?  But then he surprised me by doing the decent thing, and getting them some quality medical care at deep discount prices in Havana.  So maybe he does have a heart after all, even if it's a bleeding one.

Moore also relates how he paid the medical bills for the wife one of his enemies, who ran a bunch of anti-Michael Moore web-sites but couldn't keep the sites running and pay those medical bills.  Well, you know someone's really a champion of free speech when he defends someone else's right to say nasty things about him.  But this doesn't really count as a good deed in my book if he also puts it in his own documentary to show everyone what a great human he is.

Also starring (in archive footage): George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, Richard Nixon.

RATING: 4 out of 10 house calls

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