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   ALISON ROSE LEVY'S HUFFINGTON POST BLOGS:

SiCKO: Why Health for Profit is Dangerous to Your Health
Posted June 29, 2007 | 10:29 AM (EST)

SiCKO is a must-see. At the press screening, an editor and reporter from an insurance industry trade publication sat in the same row.

Together we watched the film progress from the cancer patients bankrupted by medical payments, to the moms and widows left bereft when insurers denied their toddlers and husbands needed treatments, through the long litany of excuses for refusing coverage and denying treatment to the insured, all the way to the people driven from hospitals and dumped onto the street like garbage.

I imagined how ashamed these two journalists must feel to serve that industry.

But did they? Or has a heart become too costly a commodity?

SiCKO captures physicians perverting their obligation to save life by rubber-stamping death warrants -- "Coverage Denied" -- to save their insurance bosses money.

Who gave them -- and the public officials and lobbyists who support them -- the right to make human suffering one big payday?

Through ignorance or inaction, we did.

The (European and Canadian) societies Moore portrays see humane health treatment as a right, not a source of profit. We alone among 25 developed nations allow medical bills to be the top cause of bankruptcy.

What does it do to us to wake each morn in a society that values the dollar so high and the human being so low?

Who do we become when we can't afford to care because the need (on the low and middle ends of the economic spectrum) and the greed (at the upper end) isolate us?

The two insurance gals left at the 9/11 section of SiCKO. They weren't about to report it, so why bother to watch? Perhaps like me, they'd been in the city on 9/11.

Hurrying home to write that negative review for their insurance execs, (with the Imitrex standing by in case of migraine), they missed Moore's trip to Cuba to get health care for three 9/11 rescue workers, who were denied treatment here.

In 2001, as our leaders donned hard hats, and grandstanded on TV, this one rescuer sifted the debris for bodies. The ensuing post-traumatic stress caused him to grind his teeth down to little stubs.

Another rescuer, a single mom, developed disabling lung disease. Back in 2001, the news media published falsified government reassurances on safe air quality at the site -- without investigating their accuracy.

But wait -- weren't those news reporters here in New York themselves inhaling post 9/11 air? Many people reported that it smelled like burnt rubber, circulating around town for days, as air commonly does. Though not health journalists, like me, why didn't anyone inquire into the cause of the smell? Good air for us to breathe? Not!

Even without an odor, what happened to their "nose" for news? Where did those microscopically pulverized buildings and bodies go? Your guess is as good as mine!

Based on Moore's revelations in SiCKO, I'll bet that after reading this, some managed care executives will confer about new coverage exclusions:

Anyone present in New York City on 9/11/2001 shall be considered to have a pre-existing condition: Coverage denied.

Six years ago, neither the federal nor local governments, neither the press nor area health institutions voiced public health safety concerns. If they had, inhalation-derived illnesses (impacting rescuers or other residents) could have been treated or prevented.

But don't worry, our insurance friends will ferret out any future health risks -- because it's their job to know and deny them.

Recommend identifying the pathway(s) taken by any contaminated air currents to determine which neighborhoods within one hundred mile radius (from downtown to Greenwich, Connecticut) shall be excluded from coverage.

Sadly, the insurance folks aren't the only ones with skewed priorities, but unlike them, the rest of us can't leave the film before the bad ending.

Therefore, to truly protect New Yorkers (and with us, all Americans), before invading another country, let's first make sure that no American's health, life, or death is subject to any so-called health industries built on profit, rather than care. As Moore says, "They have a fiduciary responsibility to assure their bottom line, not your health."

Next, why not integrate and protect our right to low-cost integrative health modalities that can prevent illnesses and minimize the need for costly, invasive treatments?

When the 9/11 rescue worker got his new teeth, I broke down and wept for him, for my city, and for my profession.

Finally a hero received the care he deserved. Finally, a journalist was unafraid to report the truth.

Moore's been labeled by the media as insufficiently "objective." But when issues impacting our health go unreported because the media (and the Congress) are beholden to health industry advertisers and lobbyists, where are journalistic standards? Or democracy?

As President John F. Kennedy stood before tyranny at the Berlin Wall, he famously expressed his solidarity by saying, "I am a Berliner."

Would anyone out there like to be a New Yorker, too?

We sink or we swim together. We've all been exposed to harm. Now let's deal with it. Like my 9/11 hero, let's get our teeth back. And then let's tear down these walls of denial.

And to beholden journalists (and policy makers) everywhere, you're New Yorkers too.

Go see SiCKO, and for future action initiatives, go here.

Copyright, 2007, Alison Rose Levy. All rights reserved.

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Since 1990, I’ve been writing, reporting, and contemplating the manifold dimensions of health in bestselling books, national magazine articles, blogs, TV and radio programs, and websites. Please share your questions and concerns with me at Alison@HealthJournalist.com follow me on Facebook, or twitter or sign up as a fan to get my Huffington Post blogs here

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