Working Wounded Blog: 'Sicko'

Here is an admission that I've never made in the decade that I've been writing professionally -- I cried at a movie this weekend. It wasn't a chick flick. Or a horror movie. Well, maybe not a traditional horror movie, but it was still mighty scary.

The movie was "Sicko." Yep, that crazy Michael Moore's latest.

I bet you're wondering what this has to do with a workplace blog? Since most of us get our health insurance from the same place -- our job -- "Sicko" has everything to do with work.

Our jobs and health insurance have been inextricably bound since the late 1940s. With a flood of soldiers coming back after World War II, corporations positioned health insurance as a perk to attract the best and brightest. Ironically, the movie documents how England went in the exact opposite direction by introducing universal health care right after the war.

I never thought I'd encourage you to go see a movie that promotes a government run health care system, but then again I never thought I'd admit to crying in one either.

The movie contains heartbreaking scene after scene of people without health insurance literally being tossed on the street in hospital gowns. But the most painful parts of the movie aren't the stories from the uninsured. No, the worst parts are the scenes with people who have health insurance but who are denied treatment. Which raises the question, what is a safety net when it is full of holes that are big enough for you and me to fall through?

I have another personal confession to make. I once worked for a health insurance company. I saw how claims were reviewed. I didn't see any cases of people who died for lack of treatment, but I did see a process that was more concerned about cost savings than providing quality health care.

I wish I could offer a silver bullet based on my experience. A way to ensure that you or a loved one will get the treatment you deserve, heck that you paid for. But the system is built so that the maximum decision making power doesn't lie in the hands of your doctor but in the bowels of health insurance behemoths.

But rather than demonizing health care workers, the movie interestingly shows how debilitating the system is on them. After all, these are the Florence Nightingales who got into health care to help people. They didn't choose this career simply to write "denied" at the bottom of health insurance forms.

Moore contrasts interviews with U.S. health care workers talking about how they hate having to deny treatment to people who need it with health care workers from countries with national health insurance who revel in their ability to simply focus on the needs of their patients rather than billing and access to service quandaries.

Is this movie above reproach? Of course not. After all, this is Michael Moore. He falls too much in love with France's socialized health care system, to just give one example. But don't lose the bigger point. We are all betting our lives on a house of cards that spends millions to think of creative ways to deny treatment.

And don't take my word for it. Go see this movie. Just don't forget to bring Kleenex, because it could be the scariest ride you take all year.

Quote of the Week

"Cocaine is God's way of saying that you are making too much money." -- Robin Williams

Book Excerpt of the Week

"What You Don't Know Can Kill You" by Dr. Laura W. Nathanson (Collins, 2007)

"Whether you prefer the image of an out-of-control volleyball game or a breakdown prone machine, today's health care system violates the cardinal rule of effective management: Somebody must be in charge of any complex human system, or it is bound to malfunction. Medical care today has led to one series of unintended consequences after another. Specialists and scientific discoveries proliferate, bringing with them an enormous need for coordination, interpretation, and above all, leadership in charge of the process. That need has gone unmet. As a result, patients often -- and justifiably -- feel that 'nobody's in charge.'"

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at bob@workingwounded.com.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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