Monthly Archives: July 2004

HMO Say Can You See

And now a guest editorial by my boyfriend Bill Reed

Dear Michael Moore:
When I learned this morning that you were now beginning pre-production on Sicko, my sense of elation knew no bounds. And I felt the necessity of writing this letter of congratulations and encouragement. You couldn’t have chosen a better topic. The horrifying and inhumane health care system—or lack thereof— in the U.S. (especially as exemplified by HMOs) is hobbling unions, and causing millions of otherwise healthy people to shamble around half-mad simply because they are fearful of what might happen to them if they were to fall ill. And that’s just for starters.
In the past few days I have been contemplating writing a missive of complaint to the HMO Kaiser Permanente. Either to a director or ombudsman at Kaiser, if indeed such individuals as the latter even exists there. But it will be a pointless act, I know. For if anything demonstrates my axiom “No Time Left to Do the Right Thing” (in this particular society), it is Kaiser.

BTW I don’t know whether you will recall, but I interviewed you for “International Documentary” in 1989 when Roger & Me was released. I can still remember that you, my co-interviewer David Ehrenstein and I, spent nearly as much time talking about Bitburg as we did your film. Specifically about how much, as David had observed, the graveside tableau at Bitburg exactly resembled a scene in Triumph of the Will.

My complaints against Kaiser are not as dire as, for example, the woman in Putnam County, West Virginia who recently had both legs amputated by mistake. Wrong woman, you see. Not Kaiser, of course, still it makes my point. Nor even as grave as the woman across the street from me who recently had cancer surgery at Kaiser and was then tossed out on the street the same day (!), because there were “no more beds available.”

Still. . .how would you like to be told, as was I not long ago by a doctor at Kaiser, that you had had a major heart attack and then ordered to endure a sedentary life for an entire month only to discover that the incorrect diagnosis was based upon a faulty EKG. They had me walking around with a vial of nitroglycerine, for crying out loud! Well, at least I had both my legs left.

Sure “mistakes occur.” But a month prior to that, a faulty x-ray caused me to have to deal for several days with another incorrect diagnosis of. . . .LUNG CANCER. Both of these arising BTW from shoulder pain that I have endured for nearly two years without Kaiser doing much of anything to alleviate it. All for the low Low LOW cost of 389.00 per month. Q. How can they do it? The Answer: volume Volume VOLUME!

I have periodic nightmares of a Soylent Green nature about Kaiser: people going in but never coming out. . .if you catch my drift. All the better to make room for yet more “suckers,” most of whom cannot afford anything more than the far less than acceptable and humane “care” they allegedly provide. (An exception: I did one time see L.A.’s RICH ex-Mayor Tom Bradley there. But then I always did find him somewhat dim.)

And I could go on and on. Things like a full set of x-rays taken by a technician, only for him to discover after he was finished that I had not taken a chain off from around my neck. Maybe that was HIS job to notice. Thus, I had to go through the whole process again. It’s a wonder my arm didn’t fall off from all the radiation. Then there was the time that. . . oh never mind.

Maybe I am just an extreme example of Kaiser’s ineptitude. I truly feel if every one of their, uh, CLIENTS had experienced half of what I have with that HMO in the way of outright incompetence and inhumanity there would be rioting in the streets in front of their facilities round the clock. But I don’t think this is the case; for I have heard more than my fair share of Kaiser horror stories from others, as well as similar tales about other HMOs. To whit: someone told me recently told me that PacifCare was even worse than Kaiser and I had to do a spit take.

I realize in the final analysis your film will not just be about HMOs, but the entire SICK medical situation in this country. In other words, HMOs finally are but a “neurotic system,” if you will, of problems ultimately much more serious.

Goodluck and godspeed. I would love to help you with this project in any way that I possibly can.

Bill Reed

PS: I just decided that instead of writing a letter to Kaiser, I’ll simply cc a copy of this to their head honcho.

PPS: And what’s the deal with not being able to sue HMO’s? LOL