Sunday evening about 200 people attended a screening of The Health Care Movie, a professionally crafted documentary about Canada’s single payer health care system.

Health Care -- the Movie

The movie tells the history of the struggle for a single payer system in Canada. Canadian doctors went on strike to protest single payer when it first came out. But nowadays the doctors  have accepted it and no Canadian politician proposes ending it.

The film also tells the history of the struggle in America for some sort of national health care program.

Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford (he proposed a compromise bill), Jimmy Carter (his proposal involved private insurers), Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all tried  to implement some such system. During Truman’s time conservative activists used fear of communism as a propaganda technique to lower public support for national health care from 75% to 20% or so. During the 2010 health care debate, conservatives repeated the phrase “government takeover of health care” — even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included no public option.

The 65 minute movie contains interviews with many Canadians who describe their experiences with the health care system, as well as interviews with medical experts in Canada and the U.S. Overwhelmingly, Canadians approve of their health care system. The movie has several human interest parts: about a sick child who needs a major operation, and about a dying elderly woman who needs hospice care (her husband holds her hand and, later, plays the piano and smiles into the camera).

There were many moments of humor and tenderness in the film. Also many moments that make you angry at the inefficiency and injustice of the US health care system.

The movie was produced and directed byLaurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg, two members of Eastshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Bellevue. At the end of the showing, there was a standing ovation. Then for about 45 minutes the producer and director answered questions. I asked: “When will the movie be on NBC, CNN, PBS, or some such network?” They said that eventually it may be on PBS. But first they’re selling dvds for $20 and hosting showings around the country. They paid for production out of their own pockets.

The Health Care Movie is likely to have a significant positive influence on the public debate about health care in America.