Grieve for the U.S. health system

It isn't surprising that critics of Michael Moore's Sicko are desperate to quibble with his finer points. After all, denial is the first stage of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's model of dealing with grief, and the tragedy before us is, of course, the agonizing death of an inadequate medical system.

Denial is normal when faced with the sad state of American healthcare. Who wants to hear that roughly one in six of us are uninsured and can't get access to care? Who cares that we have the 37th-best medical system in the world? Who needs to know that 18,000 American citizens may be dying each year because this country's system is not comprehensive or universal? This data came from the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine? Well, who are they to judge?

Anger is the next logical step. Come on, this is American healthcare! This country's got moon men, purple mountains' majesty and a per-capita healthcare expenditure that's twice as much as that of any other industrialized nation. It should make our blood boil that we don't nearly get what we pay for. And yet we all have a story about a family member, friend or ourselves that relates to the substandard treatment patients receive in this country -- stories that range from the exasperating to the infuriating.

It may seem sensible to bargain with private insurers when confronting our fate at their hands. Massachusetts is grappling with a plan to mandate private (and some public) health insurance coverage for all citizens. Those who can afford to are pumping money into the coffers of health insurers, while the state takes up the slack for the rest. But flooding the private insurance market with public money is a feeble solution. And wouldn't it make more sense to transfer this largess to actual medical care, thus eliminating the inefficient profit-taking middleman?

I came to medical school with the idea of improving the healthcare system for the sake of my future patients and my future career. But so far, all I've learned at school is that struggling daily against health insurers and HMOs leads to a deep depression on the part of health practitioners. I've spoken to dozens of doctors about my future. They are accomplished people; many are role models, a few are my heroes. Yet every single one has tried to discourage me from entering the profession. The business side has overwhelmed the art of medicine.

Again, echoing Kübler-Ross, all that remains is to accept our fate. Or, we can accept the best solution available, a universal single-payer system that eliminates private insurers and provides cradle-to-grave coverage for all.

So when you hear arguments and proposals that deny the facts, that take issue with what Michael Moore is documenting, that urge us to bargain with private insurers -- and in general, ask us to wallow in self-pity -- be prepared to accept the worst.

Or you can get out there and fight for your life with the rest of us.

The writer is a second-year student at New Jersey Medical School and a co-president of the local student chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program -- -- an organization that advocates for single-payer universal healthcare in the United States. He is the son of Liza Gross, The Miami Herald's managing editor/presentation.

Read more Issues & Ideas stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">DANGEROUS WORK:</span> In this handout image made available by the photographer, Pinecrest journalist Steven Sotloff (center with black helmet) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line, near Misrata, in 2011.


    Killing highlights role of freelance journalists

    James Foley’s murder has focused attention on freelancers, who often go to conflict zones without major organizations support.

  • Fulton

    Letter to Brown family: Hold on to your faith

    I wish I had a word of automatic comfort but I don’t. I wish I could say that it will be alright on a certain or specific day but I can’t. I wish that all of the pain that I have endured could possibly ease some of yours but it won’t. What I can do for you is what has been done for me: pray for you then share my continuing journey as you begin yours.

  • Holder

    Letter to Ferguson — and the nation

    Since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, the nation and the world have witnessed the unrest that has gripped Ferguson, Mo. At the core of these demonstrations is a demand for answers about the circumstances of this young man’s death and a broader concern about the state of our criminal justice system.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category