You know those episodes of "House" in which Hugh Laurie, or one of the members of his team, hits upon the right diagnosis for the wrong reasons? He might guess correctly that a patient has a blood infection, but in getting the cause of that infection wrong, doesn't treat the source. Sometimes he even makes the problem worse.
That's what "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" is like. Except it doesn't offer the solace of Laurie's piercing blue eyes in exchange for its tendentious diagnosis.
What's really frightening about "Escape Fire" isn't the picture of a costly and ineffective system it presents. It's that this documentary is being released just over a month before the presidential election, with a clear eye to influencing the results.
|'Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare'|
|Stars: Don Berwick, Shannon Brownlee, Steve Burd|
|Director: Susan Froemke, Matthew Heineman|
|Rated: PG-13 for some thematic material|
|Running time: 99 minutes|
There's no question the American health care system is broken. But it's not for the reasons directors Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman posit. They lay a great deal of blame on the pharmaceutical industry, arguing that Americans are overprescribed because of the money-hungry industry.
In fact, new drugs have brought costs down. It's a lot less expensive to treat a patient with heart disease with a handful of pills than to require him to undergo open heart surgery down the line. Froemke and Heineman spend a lot of time on the rising rates of diabetes. But it's a perfect example of how a drug discovery has helped saved lives and money.
Of course, now that people are living longer thanks to these new advances, there's a greater burden on the health care system. It's a rather simple cause and effect, but none of the "experts" in this doc have figured it out.
The kind of advice offered here, instead, ranges from the obvious to the dangerous. In the former category is the idea that we should eat better -- more whole foods, less junk food. McDonald's isn't trying to kill its customers by pricing salads more than hamburgers, though. Supply and demand is another basis lesson these filmmakers never learned.
By promoting the work of Dean Ornish and Andrew Weil, "Escape Fire" could do more real damage than a thousand Big Macs. Ornish might promote the benefits of yoga in bringing down stress, and hence helping heart disease. But nobody should ignore their doctor's prescriptions in favor of lying on a yoga mat or undergoing acupuncture -- another "alternative" therapy trumpeted in this film.