The United States’ healthcare system is a bureaucratic nightmare, an unwieldy beast that values one thing above all else: making money. Yes, like much of our 21st-century culture, our healthcare system has been damaged by capitalism run amok, ultimately favoring the bottom line over patients’ well being.
Co-directors Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke’s highly instructive, Sundance-approved documentary attempts to dissect the myriad issues related to healthcare. Unlike Michael Moore’s mixed-bag Sicko, which was shot through with typically caustic bravado and lacerating wit, Escape Fire is a more sober account of the situation. The filmmakers investigate the issue holistically, moving from a detailed, largely concise look at our system’s bureaucratic hierarchy to the personal story of Sgt.
Robert Yates, an Afghanistan veteran who gets hooked on an array of drugs in an effort to suppress his war injuries — a powerful example of the corrosive impact pharmaceutical options are having on our society. Escape Fire shows how doctors and hospitals are rewarded not for preventing health issues but for treating them; the more patients they see, the more surgical procedures they do, the more they’re paid. And the more they’re paid, the happier the corporate overlords — including the robust Industrial Pharmaceutical Complex — become.
So how do we break this troubling pattern of behavior when lobbyists have so much influence with politicians who are dependent on corporate money to fund their reelection campaigns? There are no easy answers, but we must start with better prevention. Escape Fire’s most encouraging moments center on the efforts of Dean Ornish, a physician whose nonprofit Preventative Medicine Research Institute promotes lifestyle-driven ways of dealing with various chronic diseases. Ornish favors the simple options of better diet and exercise, changes in approach that are easier to implement than the much more complex slog of decoupling our healthcare system from its wildly lucrative capitalist structure. Grade: B