MOVIE REVIEW-Single Payer West Virginia Tommy Douglas and Healthcare, The Movie

by Russell Mokhiber

Here I sit, in West Virginia, staring down at January 1, 2014.

That’s when my health insurance policy expires and I have a decision to make — renew or not renew?

Right now, I’m paying about $7,000 a year in premiums for a monster deductible and yearly out of pocket of about $15,000 for myself and my family.

My health insurance company informed me yesterday that my premium will doubled to $14,000 on January 1.

I’ve been trying to get onto the Obamacare web site now for ten days to search for an alternative. No luck. I made it through four pages yesterday — then got a message saying I’d have to wait because there was too much traffic. When I clicked the continue button, it wiped out the information I had typed into the first three pages.

But even if I do get onto the exchanges, it’s probably not going to matter.

I read in a newspaper that Highmark is the only health insurance company on the exchange in West Virginia. Yesterday, I called Highmark and spent an hour on the phone with a nice young man — but the results were not good. The skimpiest plan is going to cost me more than I’m paying now for a higher deductible and out of pocket result.

Thank you Obamacare.

My insurance agent told me yesterday I had only one alternative — wait for six years until Medicare kicks in and keep fighting for single payer.

Obviously, the Democrats and anyone who defends them are not going to be of any help in the next round. They are irrevocably tied to President Obama and Obamacare and even those Democrats nominally in favor of single payer refuse to criticize it for the industry written law that it is.

I agree with Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program when he says that Obamacare should have been defeated because it enshrines and solidifies corporate domination of the health care system.

But what to do next? Well, first thing is to watch a movie called Healthcare — The Movie. It’s a short documentary — 62 minutes — but packs a big punch. The movie was produced by a husband wife team — the wife Canadian — Laurie Simons — and the husband American — Terry Sterrenberg.

The movie toggles back and forth between the USA and Canada — with Americans struggling with bankruptcy, death from lack of health insurance and the dark cloud of health insurance armageddon menacing their lives from cradle to an often early grave.

The Canadians, by contrast, are living in a relative health care nirvana, thanks in large part to Tommy Douglas, a boxer and Premier of Saskatchewan who stood up to the red baiting being dished out at the time by the Canadian medical establishment. Douglas emerged victorious and his efforts resulted in the creation of Canada’s single payer Medicare for all. The movie is narrated by actor Kiefer Sutherland — Tommy Douglas’ grandson.

The film features great historic clips — including a remarkable scene where a CBC television show host asks the question — who is the greatest Canadian? And then, in reality show format, puts it up to a vote.

“After six weeks, ten finalists, and more than a million votes,” the CBC host says, “it ended tonight with one name . And I have the envelope here. The greatest Canadian as decided by you is — Tommy Douglas.”

Imagine that — the country says that Tommy Douglas, the father of single payer in Canada, is greater than its greatest hockey player — Wayne Gretzky.

Tommy Douglas’ courageous act — standing up for the people of Canada against the vicious attacks of the powers that be — has resulted in a system that delivers health care for all Canadians — no complex bills, no deductibles, no deaths from lack of health insurance, no medical bankruptcies — all funded by a progressive tax system.

The movie profiles Canadians with serious medical illness — who come out financially unscathed — no bills, no bankruptcy, no health related financial worries.

And then compares those Canadians to the suffering human beings south of the border.

The movie does a good job of making us Americans feel like crap compared to our cousins up north.

Check out this sequence, for example:

How many people in the United States die each year because they have no health insurance?  45,000

How many people in Canada die each year because they have no health insurance? Zero.

How many people go bankrupt each year in the United States because of medical expenses? 922,819

How many people go bankrupt each year in Canada because of medical expenses? Zero.

How many Americans do not have health insurance? 50 million.

How many Canadians do not have health insurance? Zero.

How many Americans go without medical care because of costs? 115 million.

How many Canadians go without medical care because of costs? Zero.

One of the stars of this film is a young American from Portland, Oregon named Lindsay Caron.

“I was a free-lance artist for a long time,” Caron says. “I gave that up to go sit in an office and file papers so that I could have health care. And it amazed me that other people in other countries never had to think about that. I kept hearing that Canada’s system was broken, and that Canadians were flocking over the border to get US care. And so I wanted to go to Canada with a camera and ask a couple hundred people. I bought a ticket up to Vancouver, Canada. I rented camera equipment. And I took my bicycle. I thought maybe I would stay in Vancouver for a couple of days and cycle on back to Portland. I ended staying there the whole week. I got up in the morning, set up a camera on the street and just start asking people questions.”

Caron finds out what polls in Canada consistently confirm — that the vast majority of Canadians would never in a thousand years give up their Medicare coverage for the nightmare south of the border.

It all came about because Tommy Douglas had the guts to stand up to the political and medical establishment and do what is right for the Canadian people.

Canada did it.

There is no reason we can’t do it.

It’s simply a matter of reordering our priorities.

Let’s put aside, for a moment, our millions of copies of Grand Theft Auto 5 and start playing a new game — Grand Theft — Health Insurance.

The goal of the game is to become a boxer, like Tommy Douglas — and fight back against the insurance industry and its Frankenstein monster — Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare.

Replace it with single payer.


MOVIE REVIEW- THE HEALTHCARE MOVIE   PNHP California by Daniel Braunstein, PhD

By Daniel Braunstein, PhD

There are really two documentaries in “The Healthcare Movie,” a full length 65 minute version and an abbreviated version (27 minutes), both narrated by well-known actor Keifer Sutherland. Recently produced and circulated by a Canadian / American couple, each version effectively addresses many myths Americans believe in regarding the single payer Canadian health care system. The films compare U. S. experiences attempting to legislate a comprehensive single payer health insurance system with the Canadian experience. They examine the development of Canadian “Medicare” by charismatic politician and minister, Tommy Douglas, in the prairie province of Saskatchewan. After viewing these informative films, the viewer can’t help but conclude that Americans are saddled with a health care financing system that fails miserably when compared with our neighbors.

The shorter version packs a powerful punch, and is highly recommended as a meeting discussion focus. Using actual historical movie footage from both countries and simple, effective graphics to convey comparative statistics, it avoids reliance on “talking heads,” the bane of many documentaries. Physicians Aaron Katz of the University of Washington, and Paul Hochfeld, of Corvallis OR (a member of the “Mad As Hell Docs” touring group), briefly comment on the data. In addition, impromptu interviews in downtown Vancouver show that a sample of Canadians are very positive regarding their system. Later on in the film, interviews with Canadian physicians show that they too are favorable toward the system.

After reviewing how single payer universal health care initiatives have been repeatedly squashed by a combination of U.S. financial and political interests (Socialized Medicine, anyone!), the film chronicles the grassroots movement in rural Saskatchewan which Douglas, the “premier” or, governor, led in the early 60s. After its establishment on the prairie, it took over a decade before Canadian “Medicare” was established throughout the rest of Canada. Now it is federal policy there. Contrary to what many Americans think, it is not a government-run healthcare service. As the film makes clear, it is a socialized financing system, while just as in the U.S., care is delivered through a variety of private practices and public clinics, as well as community, church-related, and university-related hospitals.

As I write this, given the current battle over “Obamacare” during the Presidential election campaign, I keep wishing that politicians from both parties could see this movie, and internalize the uncontestable facts which it dramatically presents. The full length version chronicles the Obama administration’s unwillingness to include a “Single Payer” option, along with remarks from a Republican congressman, and a moving appeal by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Scholars would be pleased to observe much of the historical footage showing how universal care was torpedoed during two Roosevelt, as well as Truman and Clinton, administrations. In the late 1940s, a shrewd public relations campaign purchased by the AMA was able to conjoin universal healthcare with “socialized medicine” in the public’s mind, a long lasting concept which put down President Truman’s attempt and has frustrated reform ever since.

On their website, the film’s producers, Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg, say that the longer version should be preferred for showing to most groups. I disagree. I have used the shorter version as the basis for a hearty discussion among members of the Sacramento Valley Chapter of Health Care for All. At 27 minutes it was just about the right length, although it skipped a lot of interesting, but lengthy, historical details, as well as many of the patient stories.

The “Healthcare Movie” producers have constructed a website which can efficiently be used to order copies of either the abbreviated or the full length version. For non-profit organizations, such as PNHP California chapters, a payment of $100 will obtain a DVD copy of the full-length version, $24.95 will obtain the abbreviated version. A license which allows multiple showings is part of this purchase (DVDs with out the license are less expensive). Shipping is included. Educational organizations must pay a $150 fee. The web address is


The Health Care Movie:  Review by Don Smith on November 12th, 2011 at 10:39 am

Posted In: Activism, Health care

Sunday evening [November 6th] about 200 people attended a screening of The Health Care Movie, a professionally crafted documentary about Canada’s single payer health care system.

Health Care -- the Movie

The movie tells the history of the struggle for a single payer system in Canada. Canadian doctors went on strike to protest single payer when it first came out. But nowadays the doctors  have accepted it and no Canadian politician proposes ending it.

The film also tells the history of the struggle in America for some sort of national health care program.

Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford (he proposed a compromise bill), Jimmy Carter (his proposal involved private insurers),Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all tried  to implement some such system. During Truman’s time conservative activists used fear of communism as a propaganda technique to lower public support for national health care from 75% to 20% or so. During the 2010 health care debate, conservatives used the phrase “government takeover of health care.”

The 65 minute movie contains interviews with many Canadians who describe their experiences with the health care system, as well as interviews with medical experts in Canada and the U.S. Overwhelmingly, Canadians approve of their health care system. The movie has several human interest parts: about a sick child who needs a major operation, and about a dying elderly woman who needs hospice care (her husband holds her hand and, later, plays the piano and smiles into the camera).

There were many moments of humor and tenderness in the film. Also many moments that make you angry at the inefficiency and injustice of the US health care system.

The movie was produced and directed by Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg, two members of East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue. At the end of the showing, there was a standing ovation. Then for about 45 minutes the producer and director answered questions. I asked: “When will the movie be on NBC, CNN, PBS, or some such network?” They said that eventually it may be on PBS. But first they’re selling dvds for $20 and hosting showings around the country. They paid for production out of their own pockets.

The Health Care Movie is likely to have a significant positive influence on the public debate about health care in America.

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