We're here today to discuss the impact SiCKO is having on the health care debate in this country. To date, we have appeared in Congress to discuss the need to get rid of private health insurance. We testified before the legislature in California in support of a reform effort to protect Californians from for-profit health insurance. We have done events with mayors, with leading members of Congress, on Wall Street and with progressive groups. We have stood shoulder to smock with the 2.9 million California Nurses, as well as other working Americans such as the U.S. Steelworkers - the people who have helped build American beam by beam, rivet by rivet, floor by floor.
And to date the public has responded to our collective action. We opened in over 400 theaters last week and had a great turnout. More impressive, over the last five days the momentum has continued to grow - while others have gone down in the box office - we have actually gone up - which is virtually unheard of.
However, the most compelling evidence that we are making a difference is found in the response of the health care industry itself. For the first few weeks after the movie premiered in Cannes, the industry did their best to ignore the film - no doubt at the behest of their lobbyists, the industry's political muscle - who were likely counseling them not to engage. Well, over the last three weeks, the industry appears to have changed its strategy as it has become clear that SiCKO poses a real threat.
First, we had front groups and conservative think tanks - both of whom appear to get their funding and support from the health care industry - sponsoring events and trying to influence the press.
Second, we have had the industry itself begin trying to issue their own video press releases and industry fog machine. But no matter how hard they spin, the American people understand something is wrong when we pay more for health care and get far less back. We don't live as long AND our children aren't born as healthy as other developed countries.
And, now, we have an internal, confidential memo from an executive at Capital Blue Cross - a major Pennsylvania health care insurance company with over a billion dollars in revenue. The memo discusses the impact and threat of SiCKO and what needs to be done to combat the movie. Ironically, one of their strategies is to try to distinguish themselves from strict for profit insurance companies - never mind the $795 million the company has 'on reserve.' They also seem to believe that we - the American people - deserve the blame for our quality of health care, pointing to our diet and exercise regimes. I suggest that they go to France where people eat cheese by the wheel, drink wine by the bottle, smoke like chimneys and are still healthier than we are. It is not our diet. It is not our exercise. It is our health care system. The memo is ironic for three reasons: first, it would seem to confirm the notion that for profit health care and quality health care are incompatible. Second, so-called non-profits like Blue Cross are non-profit in name only - their CEO makes over $800,000 a year. If that is non-profit, I am sure a lot of people would be interested in working for that kind of pay. Where is all that money coming from? Third, when the companies start pointing fingers at each other, you know they are on the run - like rats fighting to stay afloat.
Now that we have them on the run, it is critical that we don't let them hide. Today, in light of the Blue Cross memo, I call on the Capitol Blue Cross CEO to meet me at a debate sponsored by the U.S.
Steelworkers - who are headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. You can run - but you can't hide.
After a few words from the Steelworkers and the Nurses, I'd like to open the forum up to fellow Kossacks. Let's go!
The United Steelworkers union historically has done the heavy lifting in America. We helped build this country - and we continue to do so.
The Steelworkers union also historically has led the fight for social justice for working people and the middle class in this country - from fair wages to safe working conditions to strong pensions.
Today, it is the Steelworkers union out there hammering away for quality, affordable health care for all, after watching one employer after another raise the premiums that workers must pay so high that coverage no longer is affordable to the middle class in this country.
The USW and Michael Moore challenge Blue Cross executives to swap their pinstripes and Bruno Malis for coveralls and steel toes and spend a day in a USW steel or paper mill, a tire plant or copper mine and then blame the American people for our health care system. While they are at it, they can trade salaries too.
We are proud to host the hard hats vs the pinstripes debate featuring on one side, Michael Moore and USW International President Leo Gerard, a native of Canada, land of National Health Care, and on the other side, Capital Blue Cross CEO and whoever he might choose as a tag team partner.
We will do the event in Pittsburgh. If the CEO doesn't have the guts to show, we'll put up an empty chair. It will be a well-padded wingback, in keeping with what they are no doubt used to, and we will hold an old fashioned screening and town hall instead.
Leo W. Gerard, USW President