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Employers Lash Out at Moore’s iSicko-i Agenda

June 29, 2007
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Ethics, Health and Wellness, Latest News
Like a growing number of employer groups, filmmaker Michael Moore says he wants to fix America’s $2 trillion health care system. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Moore’s film Sicko, which he describes as “a comedy about 45 million people with no health care in the richest country on Earth,” promises to deliver a withering, if one-sided, indictment against America’s health care system, taking particular aim at the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

And though they have not yet seen the movie, to be released nationwide Friday, June 29, health insurance and pharmaceutical executives and employer groups have been striking back at Moore and his proposal to end the health care crisis by abolishing private health insurance in favor of a government-run single-payer plan.

“The American people do not support a government takeover of the entire health care system because they know that means long waits for rationed care,” says Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s lobby group, in a press release.

The statement was issued just after Moore appeared before throngs of supporters outside the statehouse in Sacramento, California, where he had been stumping for his policy—and his movie—as part of a well-coordinated publicity campaign.

Moore’s attempt to thrust the health care debate from policy and political circles onto the stage of the Hollywood summer blockbuster.

“Without question there are problems in the American health care system,” says Neil Trautwein, vice president and employee benefits policy counsel for the National Retail Federation, that industry’s lobby group. “But as I understand it, the national health care system Mr. Moore posits as an alternative would lead to far more dislocations and far more pressures than the current system.”

James Gelfand, manager of health policy for the ERISA Industry Committee, an organization representing the pension and health plan interests of Fortune 100 employers, says Moore missed an opportunity by not meeting with employers—the very payers who are in crisis over health care costs and who, as a result, do not provide health insurance to workers.

“I would have been happy to arrange a meeting with many corporate executives who would have lots of good things to say about how we can expand access to health care in the United States,” Gelfand says. “Michael Moore is not worried about finances or the reality of the health care system.”

Moore the polemicist may strike a nerve in the American psyche, but his impact on the debate will not change health care, these policy experts say. What is needed, says Trautwein, is a change in health care’s financial incentives so that medical providers get paid for the quality of the care they provide.

“I see Moore having as much impact as a spent balloon losing hot air,” Trautwein says. “He’s a blowhard extraordinaire. He has some notoriety, but when the fluff and puff pass, he will be a footnote in the health care reform debate.”

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Jeremy Smerd

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