Sicko Reprise, Please

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Norwegians consider President Barack Obama to be a right-wing leader.  I kid you not.  My "people," the Norwegians, are out in front on so many social issues that even conservatives in Norway think Obama is too conservative. Nonetheless, when my husband and I were in Norway at the end of last year, our relatives and the people we met were absolutely overjoyed that Obama won. We literally had people in Oslo stopping us on the street (we were obviously Americans) and slapping our backs, shaking our hands and offering to help us with our luggage. AND they often reminded us they were flabbergasted at our primitive ways, especially about health care.

Remember Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko? Moore and his editors decided to not use the footage they’d shot in Norway – it can be seen on the Special Edition DVD – because the Norwegian health care system is so pro-active and prevention oriented that it would strain credibility for many Americans to even know about it. I know this to be true. One of my relatives told me that Norwegian health care includes visits to shut-ins to play cards, read out loud, or just hang out. The government logic is that it’s cheaper to keep a person company than it is to treat stress-related illness after the damage is done. I’m stunned at the Norwegian sense of generosity, common sense and ethics. Indeed, one of the Norwegian scenes that got omitted from the theatrical release of Sicko was an interview with a government "ethicist" whose job it is to make sure health care funds get invested in healthy – as in no harm to people – investments. How’s that for goody-two-shoes government?

Meanwhile, my husband and I have been wrestling with a health care plan here in the good ol’ U.S.of A. that is generally pretty good EXCEPT that coverage is contingent on my husband working a minimum amount of time in an industry that has been socked by the recession… and guess what? They just raised the minimum.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s the "Big Brother" edict that came down the pike from the plan last month. Try to figure this out. I’m not quite sure why big pharmaceutical companies aren’t fighting this.

Here goes: we’ve now been told our plan will not cover prescriptions that we buy from our local pharmacies. We use both Phoenix Pharmacy in Pasadena and Webster’s Pharmacy in Altadena. We know the people who work there and trust them. We love our local pharmacies and make it a point to use them, even though we might be able to get a better price at a discount chain or online… maybe. We like to keep our local small businesses busy so they’ll stay healthy and alive, with their employees employed, right?

But now, we’re told, we must get our pharmaceuticals ONLY via Medco – either submitted via mail or online, with the medications mailed back to us from Florida. In addition, if our prescription is not a generic they will refuse to fill it, even if the Doctor specifically asks for a brand name. I am facing dental problems I’ve had to put off because there’s a cap on the amount of work I can get done within a year. I’ve been denied coverage on the replacement of a tooth that needs an implant, because Delta Dental has determined it is not close enough to the front of my mouth to warrant cosmetic considerations. In other words, they’d pay if I were losing one of my six most forward teeth. But the tooth that’s giving me trouble is one that, if it’s missing, will make me look like a Jack-o-Lantern, or in my case, a Jill-o-Lantern. A "partial" will also impact my ability to speak. Everyone knows an edentate woman performing a one woman show, or giving a keynote speech, is inspiring to other dentally challenged people! Sarcasm aside, since I am an actor and need to speak and sing in front of an audience, wouldn’t a very visible tooth gap be considered a work related problem?

No. I guess not.

Thank goodness our problems are relatively non-catastrophic. I am grateful we are not contending with life-threatening conditions.

Which brings me back to Sicko. As I watch the so-called health care "debates" and the ridiculous theater of town hall demonstrators, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some big pharmaceutical remedy for stupidity?

Just as Viagra was originally developed for treatment of high blood pressure – it was discovered to have "side benefits" as a solution to erectile dysfunction (ED) – perhaps we should see if there are any drugs for flaccid minds, or mental dysfunction (MD.) This anachronistic paranoia toward anything that even remotely smacks of socialism or community welfare is deplorable, despicable and downright ridiculous. What can these yahoos demonstrating at town hall meetings be thinking? Oh, yeah, they suffer from MD. Someone get them a pill that helps get them some blood to their possibly shriveled, limp brains.

Meanwhile, rent "Sicko," and give yourself a good reminder why the heck we need to emulate France, England and even Cuba… and someday perhaps, even Norway.

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