Arnold Kling  

Health Care Documentary

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This documentary attempts to make vivid the weakness of the Canadian health care system. It begins by showing how attached Canadians are to the principle of government-provided health care, but then exposes the consequences in terms of waiting times, suffering, and death.

GMU professor and Cafe Hayek blogger Russ Roberts is also looking into the film medium, although he plans to take a more educational focus.

I would say that while I enjoyed the film on the Canadian system and I agree with its viewpoint, I come away feeling that one probably could make an equally compelling propaganda film for the other side. I would rather have people look at a lot of information and make up their own minds than have propaganda films make up their minds for them. But if some people only have the patience to see these sorts of films, then they shouldn't be limited to movies that slant left.

Readers are welcome to look at the documentary (25 minutes) and comment.


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The author at The Dead Parrot Society in a related article titled The California Health Insurance Reliability Act writes:
    I ran across State Senator Kuehl's Health Insurance Reliability Act while watching this interesting documentary linked from over at Arnold Kling's Econlog. I was stunned by the magnitude of the promise: the Act will give all Californians healthcare whi... [Tracked on October 19, 2005 6:47 PM]
COMMENTS (10 to date)
Tom West writes:

Indeed, I think adults recognize that *every* choice is a trade-off. A mature discussion is one where one can acknowledge the costs of your particular choice as well as the costs of others and compare those. At that point, it becomes a matter of how we each individually weigh our the advantages and disadvantages of each side.

Unfortunately, a lot of discourse has become simply a matter of repeating the costs of those plans that one disagrees with enough and to never *ever* acknowledge the costs of one's own. Propaganda films are simply another avenue of that approach.

As to health care system, I will say that there is one significant difference for Canadians, at least those with a lot of money (and those without money are likely better off under the Canadian system anyway). They can always access the American (or any other pay-for medical system) and, if so inclined, buy American health insurance. Sort of the best of both worlds (except for inconvenience).

Personally, I feel that *for the money we Canadians spend on health care*, we are unlikely to do better. Whether we are right to limit that amount by government fiat is a different question, and a film like this lets us know that it is *not* without cost. However, maintaining American level health spending is not practical - Canada is simply nowhere near wealthy enough to sustain such levels of spending, and it is disingenous to pretend otherwise.

Matt McIntosh writes:

Speaking as a Canadian who's lived that nightmare with my mother's pancreatic cancer, I agree with you. This documentary has the advantage of being right, but it's still not much better than Michael Moore material. I would rather just show people the numbers and go easy on the emotional manipulation.

Victor writes:

If you are looking for additional related fodder, you might want to take a look at this Lewin Group report that estimates a negative cost for the California Health Reliability Act briefly mentioned in the above movie. I am not certain that the Act has the legal restrictions that the movie suggests, although it may.

Brad Hutchings writes:

It has kindof a Morgan Spurlock feel to it. Perhaps this is one intellectual level where the debate will take place. The film probably didn't cost much to produce or distribute over the web. Expect a lot more of these as the costs continue to drop. Perhaps the role of seroius academics is less to try to inform the general public and more to try to sway the story-tellers. The really nice thing about this film is that it isn't reactionary. After Spurlock did his McDonalds binge film, it seemed like everyone on the right thought they had to do one like it to show that you could actually lose 20 pounds eating nothing by Big Macs. At least this film is original!!

Roger McKinney writes:

Guys, before we dump on the propogandists too much, let's consider some real and sound research from the public relations field. I spent 15 years in PR before joining economics. PR research shows that people make decisions for emotional reasons first, then go for the facts to back them up. We economic liberals have it backwards. We tend to overwhelm people with the "just the facts, ma'am." We forget that other people place more importance on emotions. And that's why we haven't made more progress in promoting the cause of liberty. The left holds the moral high ground in the minds of most Americans; they simply want to help the poor. Until we economic liberals can grab the common man in the gut the way the left does, we'll always fall short. Yes, we need the facts, but people will listen to them only after we have captured their emotions.

Victor writes:

One other question that the movie spurred ...

What about all the *cancellations* for surgery? Is this the result of re-queing caused by new patients with more severe conditions getting bumped forward in line? Or is there some other cause?

I haven't seen good data on surgery postponements as a secondary problem, although it makes sense that we should expect that in such a system.

Arnold Kling writes:

Viktor,
Thanks for the link to the Lewin Group "study." Basically, they say that administrative costs in private health insurance are 14 percent, government can reduce the overhead to 2 percent, therefore single-payer will save money. The savings on overhead that go from nationalizing an industry must explain the spectacular success of the former USSR, etc.

I'm guessing Hillary Clinton wouldn't enjoy this film.

Erik Guffy writes:

Well said, Matt McIntosh. Let the numbers speak for themselves.

Tony Peretti writes:

Michael Moore plans to release a documentary called "Sicko" on the health care industry and health maintenance organizations. Moore’s previous hit movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” was released by the Weinstein brother at Miramax, and now the former executives are trying to start a new movie company. To entice investors they have created a document predicting future revenue. The movie "Sicko" is projected to deliver $52 million according to the New York Times. Here is a quote from the Times:

One conclusion that jumps out is that if Miramax became known as the house that Quentin Tarantino built, the Weinstein Company, as envisioned back in June, might become known as the house that Michael Moore built.
It appears that there will be a major push for socialized medicine from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood.

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