"WHOSE BODY IS IT ANYWAY? SICK IN AMERICA," WITH JOHN STOSSEL, AIRS ON "20/20," FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 ON ABC
Who is to blame for the healthcare system in America, and how can we improve it? John Stossel navigates the confusing world of healthcare in an hourlong special, "Whose Body Is It Anyway? Sick in America." In the special, Stossel examines the insurance industry, the need for competition to create better care, and innovative experiments aimed at combining lower costs with better medicine. He also argues with Michael Moore, whose recent documentary, "Sicko," is a scathing criticism of America's healthcare system. Stossel and Moore agree that healthcare in America is sick, but they have opposite prescriptions for the cure.
Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger tells Stossel: "Healthcare is vibrant and living. It's full of great doctors and great hospitals and great scientists and great medicines and great technologies, and it's been killed�. It's the insurers. They have our money� It's the hospitals. You go to a hospital, you have no idea what it costs. And it's the U.S. Congress." "Whose Body Is It Anyway? Sick in America" with John Stossel airs on "20/20," FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
To Michael Moore, the insurance companies are crooks, and we'd be better off in places like Cuba, Canada, France or England � any country that offers socialized medicine. But in countries where healthcare's free, governments deal with that increased demand for it by limiting what's available. It is why the British National Health Service made news by promising it would reduce wait times for hospital care to fewer than 18 weeks � still more than four months. Waits are so long for dentists that some people pull their own teeth. Dental instruments: pliers and vodka.
Government rationing healthcare in Canada is why when Karen Jepp went into labor with her identical quadruplets last month -- no neonatal unit in Canada had room for her. She flew to Montana to have the babies.
Canadian doctor David Gratzer, author of "The Cure," thought the Canadian system was great until he started treating patients. "People line up for care, some of them die, that's what happens� You want to see your neurologist because of your stress headache? No problem! You just have to wait six months. You want an MRI? No problem! Free as the air! You just gotta wait six months," Dr. Gratzer tells Stossel.
In "Sicko," Michael Moore points out that health insurers have an incentive not to pay claims, that the less they give out , the more money they make. "So they have to do things like deny care. They have to do things like tell a hospital, �No, you can't do that operation for that patient,' or tell a doctor, �No, you can't send that person to a specialist.' They have to do these things if they're gonna make money." Moore never confronted the insurance industry about that -- so Stossel does. Industry Association President Karen Ignani is eager to tell him that most claims are paid.
But is insurance even a good thing? As Stossel questions: "Imagine what your life would be like if insurance paid for other things you buy. What if you had grocery insurance? You wouldn't care what things cost. Why buy hamburger? I'll just buy steak. Why use coupons? Why look for sales? I'll just buy�everything. My insurance company's paying." That increases costs, says Stossel: "When bills are paid with �other people's money,' costs skyrocket."
Many people say that the biggest problem with our health system is that business makes money off of it. Michael Moore says that's why we need government healthcare, "Get the profit out, get the private health insurance company out of there," Moore tells Stossel. Stossel argues that government has less incentive and ability to innovate, and that competition for profit leads to better drugs, better care and ultimately better health. Moore retorts: "The government used to be really good at things. We did things like defeat the Nazis."
Then the good news�Yes, health costs are rising faster than inflation, but a few experiments show that there is a different way, one that reduces costs, but still makes medicine good for patients. First, Stossel talks to doctors who deal directly with patients � without insurance -- and therefore have a different relationship with their patients. These doctors answer patients' emails, give out their own cell phone numbers, and work hard to cater to their patients. He also looks at new kind of medical clinic, walk-in clinics, in places like drugstores and grocery stores. Stossel also talks to John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, about his company's new healthcare plan which puts employees more in control of their healthcare dollars.
Harvard's Regina Hertzlinger sums it up: "Who should decide whether you live or die? Is it gonna be a government? Is it gonna be an insurer? Or is it gonna be you and me?"
"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is the executive producer.