Friday, July 6, 2007 4:16 PM

Rep. John Conyers: Moore’s ‘Sicko’ a Reminder That No One’s Immune to Nation’s Ailing Insurance System

By Rep. John Conyers

The need for universal health care has never been more urgent. There are now 47 million Americans with no health insurance at all, including 8 million children. Eighteen thousand Americans die each year as a direct consequence of being uninsured, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Recent studies indicate that medical debt is the leading cause of both bankruptcy and homelessness. These facts are unacceptable in the richest country in the world.

Last Friday, June 29th, Michael Moore's new documentary, "Sicko," opened in theaters across the country. "Sicko" illustrates the human impact of a health care system based on profit instead of patients. The most disturbing and compelling aspect of the film is that the heartbreaking personal stories it features are not about our nation's 47 million uninsured. They are about people who actually had health insurance when they were forced into bankruptcy due to medical debt or when a family member died because he or she was denied necessary care.

By focusing on Americans who have health insurance coverage, Moore's film shows us that no one is immune from our nation's sick health care system.

The stories highlighted in the film are impossible to ignore or explain away, and that is why I believe that the release of "Sicko" is one of the most important developments in our public debate since the Clintons tried to pass universal health care legislation in 1994.

Last Wednesday, we screened clips from "Sicko" for members of Congress and heard testimony from Mr. Moore, as well as Americans featured in the film. The response was tremendous. More than 15 members of Congress were in attendance, including one Republican, and people lined up in the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building to get a peek.

"Sickness doesn't know Democrat or Republican," Moore said following the testimony of Dawnelle Keys, whose 18-month old daughter died when she was denied antibiotics because an ambulance took her to the emergency room nearest to her home, which happened not to be "in-network" for Keys' HMO.

"This is not a political issue. I can't imagine anyone that doesn't believe that every American has the human right to see a doctor when they get sick and not have to worry about whether or not they can afford it," Moore said. "There should be no profit in curing disease."

I agree. And for this reason I have proposed H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act, which would establish a publicly financed, privately delivered single payer health care system based on expanding and improving Medicare. H.R. 676 currently has 74 cosponsors in Congress and is supported by eight international unions, 14,000 physicians, two state houses and dozens of county and municipal governments across the country.

These supporters have come to recognize a fundamental truth, as have the governments of all the other industrialized countries of the world: Single-payer financing is the only way we can afford to cover all our citizens with high-quality health care.

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