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Michael Moore: Americans Pay More for Healthcare Than Others, But “We Don’t Call It a Tax”

StoryDecember 26, 2019
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We continue our interview with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore about election 2020 and some of the major issues for voters. Long before Medicare for All became a rallying cry in the Democratic Party, Moore’s 2007 film “Sicko” diagnosed the shortcomings of the for-profit American healthcare system and called for a system of universal healthcare. “The real question never gets asked. They always want to pin them on how much is it going to cost in taxes,” Moore says of debate moderators who ask whether Democratic presidential candidates will raise taxes to pay for Medicare for All.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we spend the hour with the acclaimed filmmaker Michael Moore, who joined us in our New York studio just before Christmas. I interviewed him with Democracy Now!'s Nermeen Shaikh. We asked him about one of the major issues of concern in this country, in 2020 and overall, and that's healthcare, a topic Michael Moore tackled in his 2007 documentary Sicko.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We got an issue in America: Too many good docs are getting out of business; too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their — their love with women all across this country.

NARRATOR: When Michael Moore decided to make a movie on the healthcare industry, top-level executives were on the defensive. What were they hiding?

SECURITY: That’s not on, right?

MICHAEL MOORE: No.

SECURITY: OK.

LEE EINER: The intent is to maximize profits.

MICHAEL MOORE: You denied more people healthcare, you got a bonus?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: When you don’t spend money on somebody, it’s a savings to the company.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: I want America to have the finest healthcare in the world.

MICHAEL MOORE: Four healthcare lobbyists for every member of Congress. Here’s what it costs to buy these men and this woman, this guy, and this guy. And the United States slipped to 37 in healthcare around the world — just slightly ahead of Slovenia.

LINDA PEENO: I denied a man a necessary operation and thus caused his death. This secured my reputation, and it ensured my continued advancement in the healthcare field.

NARRATOR: In the world’s richest country…

MARY MORNIN: I work three jobs.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You work three jobs?

MARY MORNIN: Yes.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic.

NARRATOR: Laughter isn’t the best medicine.

LAURA BURNHAM: I get a bill from my insurance company telling me that the ambulance ride wasn’t pre-approved. I don’t know when I was supposed to pre-approve it. After I gained consciousness in the car? Before I got in the ambulance?

NARRATOR: It’s the only medicine.

MICHAEL MOORE: There was actually one place on American soil that had free universal healthcare.

Which way to Guantánamo Bay?

GOV’T OFFICIAL: Detainees representing a threat to our national security are given access to top-notch medical facilities.

MICHAEL MOORE: Permission to enter. I have three 9/11 rescue workers. They just want some medical attention — the same kind that the evildoers are getting. Hello?

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Sicko — right? — 2007, talking about healthcare in this country. I wanted to turn right now to the debate moderators, the news personalities on television, framing the question of healthcare as a question of “Will you increase our taxes?”

MARC LACEY: You have not specified how you’re going to pay for the most expensive plan, Medicare for All. Will you raise taxes on the middle class for pay — to pay for it, yes or no?

MARTHA MacCALLUM: It will drive up taxes to pay for healthcare. And not just the wealthy will pay for that, the middle class will also pay for it.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Look, OK, very good.

KRISTEN WELKER: What do you say to voters who are worried that your position on Medicare for All could cost you critical votes in the general election?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders has been candid about the fact that middle-class taxes are going to go up and most of private insurance is going to be eliminated. Will you make that same admission?

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s some of the questions debate moderators and news personalities — sometimes you might call them journalists — are asking of the presidential candidates when it comes to Medicare for All: “Are you going to increase taxes?” Talk about the framing of that.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, these questions are asked by these moderators who work for news organizations that are owned by large conglomerates who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. So, the real question never gets asked in terms of — it’s all, yes, they always want to pin them on how much is it going to cost in taxes.

And the answer to that is, well, actually, we pay more taxes than any country on Earth, more than the Scandinavians, more than the French. And people: “What do you mean by that? No, we don’t. You can look at their tax rate and our tax rate.” And I say, “No, it’s because we lie. We don’t call — what they get for their taxes, we don’t call it a tax here. We call it tuition. We call it copayment. We call it, I mean, daycare, daycare fees.” You know, in France, in Norway, countries like that, they get those things for free or nearly free, because they pay taxes for it, and everybody gets it. If you’re qualified to go to the Sorbonne in Paris, you go there for free. You know, you pay for your books in France. Daycare in France is about a dollar, $2 — if you make a lot of money, you’ve got to pay $2 an hour for your daycare of your kids.

If you take the average of what people spend just on daycare, what you spend a week — let’s say you’re paying a couple hundred dollars a week in daycare, probably more for some people. Let’s say your college debt you’re paying off is a couple hundred dollars a month. Let’s say that during the year, through copays and deductibles — well, I know what that number is. The average American pays about $6,000 between things that aren’t covered or they have to pay part of their premium, copay, deductible. Add all that up, the $200 a month for the daycare and the $200 a month for the college. So that’s — you know, per year, it’s $2,500 for each of those, then now you’re at $5,000. Six thousand for the healthcare. Each American is paying about $11,000 that you don’t pay if you’re French or Spanish or Swedish. Yet we don’t call it a tax. We have all these other fake names for it. They just get this stuff, and they get a good version of it.

I mean, I got — when we were making this film, I don’t know, I came down — I had the flu or something or whatever. It was the middle of the night. I didn’t feel good. Our French producer said, “Oh, just get the doctor to come over.” I said, “It’s like 2 in the morning.” “Eh, no problem.” I said, “What? You mean doctors here make house calls?” He goes, “Yes. We will have to pay $50 when he or she gets here.” But if you’re French, you can turn that in and get the $50 reimbursed. So, at 2 in the morning, I had a doctor arrive where I was staying, and check me out and make sure the fever was OK, whatever. And they gave him 50 bucks. And I’m not going to get the 50 bucks back because I’m not French. But I couldn’t believe it.

And one of the women I interviewed, American ex-pats that live there, she said to me, “The reason we don’t have this stuff in the U.S. and the reason they have it here in France is because in France the government is afraid of the people. In the U.S., the people are afraid of the government.” And as long as you’re afraid of the government, as long as you’re afraid of losing your job — “I can’t lose my job. I need the benefits.” Nobody in France ever says, “I need the benefits.” The benefits are already there. It’s a human right. So you want to quit your job? You want to stand up? You want to start a strike? You want to try to unionize someplace that isn’t unionized? You’re not going to lose your job. And if you do —

AMY GOODMAN: You want to have mass protests in the streets all over France?

MICHAEL MOORE: Do it. Do it. And you will not lose your healthcare. You won’t. Your kids can still go to daycare. Your parents that are in the old age home, they’re taken care of. None of that’s coming out of your pocket. Wow! Think of the freedom, the absolute freedom, if you didn’t have to worry about how to pay for these things, and how much extra time you would have to get politically involved.

Our system is set up so you are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, where you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You’re constantly on the edge of “What if I lose my job?” What if you lose your job in France? The government will take care of you to find a new one. It’s like, “How do they have the money to do that? They must be taxing people!” Yes, they tax people, but they also — what’s their — their military, their GDP percentage, I don’t know what it is, but I am certain it’s in the single digits. Not this country. How much of your taxes go to some form of the military or homeland security? I’m sure it’s over 50% at this point. So, that’s how we choose to spend our money. What if we chose to spend it on the people? How much better it would be.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, I want to thank you for being with us, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, his most recent documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9. His other films include Michael Moore in TrumpLand, Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story, Where to Invade Next

MICHAEL MOORE: Oh, that’s a good one. I like that one.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Michael Moore witnessed the historic impeachment vote from the front row of the gallery, and he has just launched a new project, a podcast. It’s supposed to be weekly. It’s called Rumble with Michael Moore. But you’re doing it daily, Michael?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I’m just doing it through the holidays, mostly every day, just because I’ve never done this before. I mean, you had a radio show like forever, so you’re very used to this. I’m a filmmaker. So, I started last — a week ago, last Tuesday. And I am going to do it until New Year’s, pretty much on a daily basis. Yesterday, I did one from my dentist chair. I had this dental work done. I asked — the dentist is a very political dentist. I always talk to him about politics. I asked him, “Would you mind if I just recorded this?” So, you get both of us talking about Trump and Murdoch, and also you hear him drilling my two teeth. So, I know it will feel a little painful to have to listen to that drill. Nothing is more painful than what we’ve had to go through the last three years.

AMY GOODMAN: Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, his most recent documentary, 11/9. He won an Academy Award for his film Bowling for Columbine. Michael Moore has just launched a new project, a podcast called Rumble with Michael Moore. We’ll talk more with him in the coming days about another major topic of this election: guns and gun control and war. That does it for today’s show.

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