Day 6: A Look Back at Healthcare through the Movies

number6-red-200On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…

On the 6th Day of our 12 Days of Christmas Posts we take a look back at the year through the lens of Hollywood films. Of course, 2017 will forever be remembered as the year sexual harassment and assault dominated movie news, overshadowing much of the good and even some great films released. The first year of the Trump Administration has also been memorable, with no shortage of drama on the topic of healthcare. Here are my six pics that, good or bad, had me thinking healthcare.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The most anticipated movie of the year, maybe the last two years really, opened this past weekend. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second movie in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, set 30+ years after the Return of the Jedi. The film picks up where 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off with our heroine Rey, having tracked down the legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker, receiving training from him with the hope of combatting the Resistance and continuing her fight against foes Kylo Ren and the First Order. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you know all this and have probably already seen the movie. If you’re not, let’s look at the plot from a healthcare POV.

Star Wars: The Last Republican Jedi where the legendary John McCain combats pressure from his Republican colleagues and foes to defeat the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act with a single “No!”. What many call the most dramatic moment on the Senate floor in years, it was something else to see McCain, who delayed his treatment for brain cancer to be there for the vote, wielding a verbal lightsaber to cut the bill to ribbons. Lightsabers crossed, we hope to see the Jedi maverick win his battle with cancer.

The Big Sick

Like me, did you lose count on how many times some version of Trumpcare was put forth by the Republican-controlled Congress?  I know I did. At the end of the day, the Affordable Care Act, aka ACA, aka Obamacare, failed to be repealed or replaced, or even made “skinny”. It became pretty clear, I think, to most of us that no matter what your party affiliation, the U.S. healthcare system is sick and none of the proposed plans put forth could make it well. Let’s hope 2018 sees a calmer, more measured, more bi-partisan response to a plan to fix it.

In the meantime, check out The Big Sick, starring Kumail Nanjiani (from HBO’s Silicon Valley), Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and the always great Ray Romano. The Judd Apatow movie strikes the right balance of comedy, drama, and romance. 

The Post

One of the most anticipated movies of the year, The Post once again reunites Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Oh yeah, and Meryl Streep is in it too. A movie trifecta by anyone’s standard, the film follows the Washington Post and New York Times fight to get the Pentagon Papers published, as told through the Post’s publisher, Kay Graham, and editor, Ben Bradlee. The Pentagon Papers, officially the United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, chronicles the US Department of Defense history of the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 – 1967. Published at a time when both support and trust of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War were eroding, the documents confirmed suspicions about the role the government played in the build-up of the conflict.

Speaking of conflict. And the press. And healthcare. In September Politico, in a series of articles, reported that since May 2017, then HHS Secretary Tom Price had spent more than $1 million of department funds for his own travel on private charter jets and military aircraft. Price resigned on September 29th, with a tenure of 231 days, becoming the shortest-serving Secretary of Health and Human Services in history. In the age of “fake news” let’s not forget or minimize the journalists who seek to uncover the wrongs done by the officials we put our trust in.

All the Money in the World

So, as I referenced at the top of this post, sexual harassment dominated Hollywood headlines this year. Given that actor Kevin Spacey took the number 5 spot for people searched on Google in 2017, I’m pretty sure everyone knows by now that Christopher Plummer stepped in for Spacey after he was fired from this Ridley Scott crime thriller, set to release on Christmas Day.

All the Money in the World is the dramatization of American industrialist J. Paul Getty’s refusal to cooperate with ransom demands from an organized crime group who abducted his grandson, John Paul Getty III, in 1973. The movie also stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, and snagged three Golden Globe nominations – for Best Director, Best Actress, and, just because this is how Karma works, Best Supporting Actor for Plummer.

You know who else has all the money in the world, or at least a sizable junk of it? CVS. The pharmacy behemoth announced on December 3rd a proposed purchase of Aetna, our third-largest health insurer, for $67.5 billion. CVS says the buyout will lower the cost of drugs for consumers and also serve to draw some patients away from ERs and into CVS’s lower-priced retail clinics.

Battle of the Sexes

Another film based on a true story set in the 70’s, Battle of the Sexes is a dramatization of the events that led up to the 1973 tennis match watched around the world between Bobby Riggs, played by Steve Carell, and Billie Jean King, played by Emma Stone. The film explores, among other issues, the unequal prize purses and treatment of men versus women on the professional tennis circuit. While the film covers Riggs’ gambling addiction and troubled marriage, the heart of the story belongs to King, who, while at the time married to businessman Larry King, begins an affair with her hairdresser.

Billie Jean King has been an advocate for gender equality, social justice and LGBT rights for decades. So there was no surprise in her reaction to President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military. He first announced this ban on July 26th on Twitter, citing medical costs as a prime driver for the ban: “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail”. You can Google all of this of course, or read this  Washington Post article debunking the medical costs issue.

The Battle of the Sexes aired on September 20, 1973, on ABC and, according to the Wikipedia page, to a viewing audience estimated at 50 million in the U.S. and 90 million worldwide. Almost 45 years later, how is it even possible that people are still debating gender equality.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

They’re back!  This franchise based on the Marvel Comics series brings our favorite group of interstellar superhero misfits back. And it’s been a long three years since the first film in 2014.

In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, we once again find Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and now Baby Groot (the sprout from the first film’s Groot) on the run, bickering, laughing and hugging it out as they try to save the galaxy (again).

Healthcare has its own share of guardians. We are grateful to the doctors, nurses, practice managers, PAs, administrators, MAs, technicians, office staff and all others involved in the practice of medicine. You are doing a difficult job, in a tumultuous time and you continue to care about our healthcare needs. You are indeed all superheroes, and we thank you.