Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore today called for insurance company executives to be tried on manslaughter and premeditated murder charges when policyholders were denied care by the companies and die as a result.
Moore, who was in town to promote the release of his new movie SiCKO, testified at a hearing by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the five-time author of California’s universal single-payer health care plan. He was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000 nurses, physicians and other supporters of universal health care.
“I’m here,” with other lawmakers “in the hopes of igniting a movment across California and this country where the people are covered and where profit is no longer the deciding factor” in getting people healthcare, Moore said.
The primary target of his invective Tuesday was the profit-making companies — and some non-profit insurers — who put money-making before patient care.
“My sincere hope is that California will once again lead the way in taking
on the private, profit-making companies that are gouging the citizens of
this state and country to line their pockets at the expense of those who are
sick, who are ill and who need help.”
More explicitly, Moore called such companies “immoral” and “criminals.”
“There should never be room for the word profit when you’re trying to decide
whether to provide someone care. Our laws state very clearly that they have a
legal, fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for shareholders. If they
don’t do that, they are required to turn as big a profit as they can. They only
way they can turn a profit is to not provide care.’’
The thrust of Moore’s advocacy, however, centered around one state-provided system — like Medicare or what is supported by Kuehl’s legislation — that would keep administration costs low and provide care to all citizens, not just those who can pay.
Moore’s witnesses at the hearing included Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in Los Angeles, where hospitals have been found to dump patients — in their gowns, IVs and colostomy bags — who can’t pay their bills. Also at the hearing was Dawnelle Keys, whose 18-month-old daughter died hours after being denied treatment at a nearby hospital because it was not affiliated with Kaiser, her insurer.
In addition to Kuehl’s hearing, and a rally sponsored by the California Nurses Association — among the chief proponents of SB840 — Moore also appeared at a press briefing with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who supports SB840, and also has his own AB8 health care proposal. Unlike Kuehl’s single-payer bill, Nunez’ legislation does not get rid of health insurance companies, but does expand public programs and creates a statewide purchasing pool for coverage.
Moore was asked about that legislation, which provides coverage to two-thirds of the uninsured, and other bills in California. He responded “that’s the system we all have,” and described how he had health plans from Director’s, Writer’s, and Screen Actors Guilds. “Why should I have three plans and 47 million Americans have no plans?”
Earlier, he said, “Anything that moves toward single payer is a good thing, and I would support that.”
Speaker Nunez, who like many advocates is a supporter of single-payer, said he would change his legislation if he could get two-thirds of the Legislature to support the level of financial investment it would take to fund a more universal system. But the reality is, he said, Republicans won’t vote for the bill. In the state Senate, not all Democrats would either. Sen. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, did not vote for either SB840 or SB48, Sen. Perata’s health reform measure.
Moore did, however, give props to Gov. Schwarzenegger, who released his own health reform plan this year. It has not been introduced in legislation, but elements and ideas are embedded in both Nunez and Perata’s plan.
“His plan isn’t the right plan, but it was very non-traditional Republican thing for him to do, to even say (health care) was a priority,’’ Moore said. “At least Governor Schwarzenegger is saying (health care) is a problem. Recognizing the problem–the old chiche–you’re halfway there.’’