Faux Populist Goes to Doctor

By Sailer, Steve | The American Conservative, July 3, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Faux Populist Goes to Doctor


Sailer, Steve, The American Conservative


[Sicko]

Faux Populist Goes to Doctor Bg Steve Sailer

MICHAEL MOORE'S comic polemical documentaries have done more for his net worth than for his political causes. He attacked greedy CEOs sending American factory jobs abroad in 1989's "Roger & Me," gun sales in 2002's "Bowling for Columbine," and President Bush's war in Iraq in 2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11," leaving him 0-for-3.

In "Sicko," he has his ripest target yet, America's ramshackle healthcare finance system. Having come down with lymphatic cancer in 1996, 1 am sympathetic to Moore's bias against for-profit health insurance. I may still be here only because I had the kind of generous insurance that few employers provide these days.

Moore's centerpiece example is a young man battling cancer (at the same age as me) whose request for an expensive bone-marrow transplant was denied. He died three weeks later. Moore blames his death on insurance company greed, although that brief interval suggests his condition was hopeless. If I'd needed a bone-marrow transplant, I'd have wanted the law to align incentives by requiring my employer to buy both my health and life insurance from the same firm. The insurer would then have had to choose between paying my clinic and paying my widow.

Strangely, "Sicko" misses much of our expensive but stressful system's black comedy, such as medical providers mailing out heart-attack inducing bills demanding we pay their zany list prices, apparently in the hope that an occasional senile patient might dutifully ante up rather than forwarding it to his insurer. For instance, after a two-night hospital stay costing $2,000 according to the rate my insurance company had already negotiated, the hospital billed me for $34,000.

Unfortunately, Moore's self-promotion, disingenuousness, and leftist ideology make his event movies more about Moore than about their ostensible subjects. "Sicko's" underlying goal appears to be to use our absurd health-payment system to persuade us that socialism in general is superior to capitalism, that innately evil tumor on humanity. That's not a debate he's going to win, so he's distracting from the reality that medical insurance is a big exception to the rule that the profit motive works best.

Moreover, Moore's faux populism gives him an excuse to dumb down "Sicko" and not bother to explain why the competitive enterprise system that's good at providing us with, say, life insurance is bad at medical insurance.

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