Sicko Follow-Up: Misguided Notions

I’ve had conversations with dozens of people about Sicko in the two weeks since I’ve seen it.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my informal poll:

One thing which is less about Sicko and more about a human frailty: that the biggest critics of any movie are the very people who have not viewed it. So with the wave of my typing fingers (or perhaps my delete key), I’m dismissing their opinions. Haven’t seen the movie? Sorry. I’m not interested in your opinion about it….

So for the purposes of this post, I learned:

1. That many are like me, moving their opinion bar gradually to embracing the possibility of universal health.

2. That those who don’t think universal health care is an idea that’s time has come have never had a difficult health challenge, have some form of health insurance, and they think it’s adequate. Little do they know…. although they are reconsidering now that they’ve seen the movie.

Snippets of conversations include:

“I never have a problem with seeing my doctor. And my appointment lasts for almost an hour sometimes.” (Then I ask — are you spending that much time with your doctor? or with your doctor’s staff?) “I spend time with all of them.” (Then I ask — have you ever had a real health challenge? Something beyond a basic, easily treatable or short-lived medical problem?) The answer was “no” each time.

(When I asked a teacher how much her health insurance premium is..) “I only pay $80 a paycheck.” (Do you have any idea how much your employer/school district is paying for it?) “No idea.” (What if I told you there is a good chance your $80 premium is being supplemented by a $300 or $500 payment by your district?) “Are you kidding me? I had no idea.”

“Why are Americans entitled to a free education, and entitled to free books through libraries, and entitled to any number of services, but they aren’t entitled to health care? What sense does that make? They can’t be educated or read books if they are sick.”

“Universal Healthcare isn’t really free health care. Nothing is free. We would need a way to pay for it somehow.” (yes, I expect money would still be deducted from paychecks but that money wouldn’t go to private insurers, it would go to whatever the universal healthcare entity is.) “I wonder what would happen if I lost my job or got laid off and didn’t pay those premiums anymore?” (I expect, just like you could draw unemployment, you would continue to get your healthcare, too, because you would have paid into the system already.)

“I have a friend who lives in Canada and doesn’t like their system. He told me he hopes the US doesn’t move to a universal approach because he comes to the US for the care he can’t get in Canada.” (Hmmm…. I would hate to think those Americans who can’t afford health insurance now would have to forego the possibility of care just so the Canadians with enough money can cross the border for care.)

“I don’t want the government telling me what kind of care I can get. I didn’t send my kids to public schools either. I want more control over their education and I want control over my healthcare choices.” (Well then, I suppose there would still be private healthcare just like their are private schools. One thing Americans have always had is a system of choices. I don’t see that changing at all.)

So there you go — snippets only, but certainly representative. I don’t see the conversation slowing down at all and I hope the ’08 presidential candidates will take note.

And for those who have never had a diagnosis that provides that punch in the stomach that a very scary diagnosis provides — try to put yourself in the shoes of the 40+ million Americans who have no insurance and figure out how you would manage a horrible disease or a chronic disorder… it’s not pretty.


Find more of my commentary about Sicko here.

Read what other bloggers have said about it here:

Want more tools and commentary for sharp patients?
Sign up for Every Patient’s Advocate once-a-week or so email tips
Or link here to empower yourself at
Trisha Torrey
Scroll to Top