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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/12/09

The PBS FRONTLINE Documentary 'Sick Around America' was modified for the Health Insurance Lobby

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The program "Sick Around America" which was produced by PBS with the help of investigative reporter T.R. Reid ultimately ran on March 31st, 2009 but in a significantly altered form from what TR Reid had intended. The health insurance lobbying group "America's Health Insurance Plans" (AHIP), after being confronted by some of the realities of the program, like hundred's of thousands of Americans being bankrupted and 20,000 Americans dying each year because of no health coverage, denial of coverage, or rescission of coverage, was rumored to have applied editorial pressure on the final aired piece. According to T.R. Reid in a conversation with Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter the final piece was altered to reflect insurance company interests. T.R. Reid was ultimately cut out of the film by PBS and his conclusions were removed from the end of the film even though he had done all the reporting.
The Colorado Independent reported a week after the airing of the program that TR Reid's reporting "was being positioned to promote a controversial mandated health care insurance plan - a perspective Reid claims was counter to his findings." T.R. Reid said in an interview with the Corporate Crime Reporter:
"I said to them - mandating for-profit insurance is not the lesson from other countries in the world," Reid said. "I said I'm not going to be in a film that contradicts my previous film and my book. They said - I had to be in the film because I was under contract. I insisted that I couldn't be. And we parted ways." "Doctors, hospitals, nurses, labs can all be for-profit," Reid said. "But the payment system has to be non-profit. All the other countries have agreed on that. We are the only one that allows health insurance companies to make a profit."
Towards the end of the program a health insurance lobbyist talks with the moderator about the problem of rising costs of health care and states that no doctors or hospital administrators want to be paid less and no patients want to have less care so until that changes he doesn't see what is going to cause the costs to start coming down. Glaringly absent from what he was saying was any mention of the exorbitant profits the Health Insurance companies, that he represents, are making by denying or rescinding coverage and the 100 million dollar a year salaries that Health Insurance executives are making from the health care premiums that we are all but forced to pay. That seems like a glaringly obvious place to start addressing the rising costs of everyone's health care premiums.
Nevertheless the program does address the corporate abuses by health insurance companies towards their clients and every single person vested in and dedicated to the fight for health care reform in the United States needs to watch this program. A blog entry on the Daily KOS recently described the film simply:
There's a reason AHIP didn't want you to watch the show, it shows the absurdities of the American health care system vividly, and in living color.
One of the last personal stories in the film was of Nikki White, a Bristol Tennessee native in her early twenties with dreams of becoming a doctor. But those dreams were abruptly destroyed after Nikki White was diagnosed with lupus, a serious but treatable autoimmune disorder as a teenager and still under her parent's health insurance policy. As Nikki White became older and could no longer be covered under her parent's plan she also became to sick to work and found that she was almost uninsurable. No for-profit health insurance company would provide her coverage that she could afford because of her pre-existing condition. According to Frontline, TennCare (Tennessee's Medicaid program) briefly allowed Ms. White access to the medical care she needed. But not long after she had finally regained health insurance coverage Tennessee Governor, and the founder of for-profit Coventry Health Care, Phil Bredesen cut state payments to TennCare. TennCare notified Ms. White that she was no longer eligible under this plan because of the cutbacks and again lost her access to the medical care she needed to keep her illness under control. Ultimately, she had to be rushed to Duke Medical Center in a last ditch effort to save her life which ultimately failed.
After the death of Nikki White her primary care physician, Amylyn Crawford, poignantly said she, "died of complications secondary to a failed health care system."
You can watch the program rebroadcast online here.
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Eric Nelson is freelance writer, an editor at OpEdNews, and a spiritual progressive from Minnesota who has become more politically active. The reasons for this should be obvious to most; rising poverty, a broken health care system, and a growing (more...)
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