Friday, August 29, 2008


Last night I watched the film Sicko.

I stopped and thought twice before writing about it. Michael Moore is such an 'in your face' flash point of controversy. There is no question that his documentaries are really opinion pieces.

Watching this film, what engaged me was not the portrayal of the American Healthcare System, but rather, the discussions with Europeans, Canadians and Cubans.

When I first came to the U.S., I would often be encouraged to share how happy and relieved I was to be free of socialized medicine and finally have decent health care.

Huh? In puzzlement I would ask - "What *is* socialized medicine"?!?

Oh, you mean our Universal Health Care System. It is a bad thing? O.k. why?

Huh? What do you mean I can't choose my own doctor?

Huh? What do you mean I have to wait forever to see a doctor?

Lots of Huh? Huh? Huh?

*Complete* misconnect.

Truth is there are some fundamental ideological differences between the two countries.

I have to admit. I was slow to get over my own ignorance and fear of a new and different medical system.

It was a rocky start. My first attempt at getting health care coverage was not successful. Blue Cross was not able to validate my medical history as it was against policy to request medical records from 'over seas'. Hmmm, what sea lies between California and Ontario?!? That obstacle was easily removed. I went ahead and requested my medical records and hand delivered them with a new application.

Eventually I was able to secure coverage. But, now that I had insurance, I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. What can say - I was adrift in a ocean of naivety. I had no clue what an HMO was, what 'in network' vs 'out of network' was, and I had no clue about the concept of prior approval.

Eventually, I became sick and that forced me to try and figure things out. I was reluctant. I tried to ignore that I was sick. I was away on business and didn't have anyone to ask. After a week I realized I wasn't well enough to travel home and had to do something. I started with the yellow pages and found a Walk In Clinic. Then I went to an ATM. I had no clue how much I would need. I withdrew a few hundred dollars and hoped that would be enough to see a doctor. It seems silly in retrospect - but it never dawned on me that doctors accept credit cards. In the end I was diagnosed with shingles. I had let it spread out of control before seeking help. As a result I would suffer nerve pain for over a year.

I am still tentative about new things. I like the comfort of things I know. But, I live in a diverse world. I hurt myself if I am not open to learning and embracing new things. Slowly I peek out side my comfort zone and sometimes I discover new and exciting things.

The Canadians and Europeans in the film - I understand them. They talk the language I grew up with. It is a world view I understand and am comfortable with. For me, the film was like coming in for a warm cup of chocolate after an evening of shoveling snow!

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