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Universal health care pushed

Groups hope film 'SiCKO' helps bill

By Britney Tabor
The Courier-Journal

Nurses dressed in scrubs joined other medical professionals at Baxter Avenue Theatres yesterday to support a bill calling for universal health care and kick off Michael Moore's new film, "SiCKO."

The documentary, released yesterday, depicts problems with America's health-care system. Before the first matinee, nurses, legislators and community representatives held a press conference to support House Bill 676, which would establish health coverage similar to Medicare for all Americans. The bill is pending before Congress.

"Nurses are going to be a key to changing this health-care system because they are in the middle of the crisis," said Kay Tillow, director of organization for the Nurses Professional Organization.

Tillow said her group stands behind Moore's film because it gives people a picture of what's happening in the health care industry. It includes several horror stories, including the death of an 18-month-old girl who was refused treatment for a 104-degree fever because the hospital wasn't part of her health plan.

Tillow said it's wrong that people die every day because they are refused adequate health care.

"We have an ugly and broken health care system and it puts profit before patients. ... It uses dollars to ration out compassion," she said. "We believe "SiCKO" will touch the heart of a nation."

Moore took on Louisville-based health insurer Humana in a television show he produced in the late 1990s, staging the mock funeral of a man because Humana wouldn't fully cover his double-organ transplant. Humana later settled a suit the man filed.

Humana said in a statement this week that "SiCKO" "doesn't accurately depict the health-benefits industry" and includes falsehoods about the company.

More than 15 speakers addressed more than 40 people yesterday. Some held signs that read "Health Care HR 676, NOT Managed Scare."

Groups that participated included Kentuckians for Single Payer Healthcare and Physicians for a National Health Program.

Dr. Garrett Adams, a member of the physicians' group and former chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Kosair Children's Hospital who presented yesterday's speakers, said he felt it was his moral obligation to be a part of this campaign.

He said the health-care system changed in his 40 years as a doctor, to the point where he saw critically ill children refused transfers to a children's hospital for advanced care.

"Once you understand this, you can't turn your back on it," Adams said.

Dr. Syed Quadri said the Community Health Clinic of Hardin County where he works has a three-month waiting list even for people with serious conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Access to health care in America is often "based on the ability to pay and the ability to carry the insurance," Quadri said. "So if you are the sickest person and you don't have insurance and money, you don't even get to get in the line."

Harriette Seiler, who was raised in Canada, which has universal health coverage, said her mother "was in the hospital for two months and when we went to pick her up, there was no bill except cable (TV)."

More than 10 similar press conferences were held around the country yesterday.

"SiCKO" is also showing at the Showcase Cinemas Stonybrook.

Reporter Britney Tabor can be reached at btabor@courier-journal.com.