Episode Information

FRONTLINE: Sick Around America & Sick Around the World
Aired:
03/31/2009
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In this episode:

Why can't we do better?

 


Pictured: Nikki White, who died at age 32 from lupus, a serious but treatable autoimmune disorder, after falling through the cracks of the U.S. healthcare system.

Frontline

Sick Around America 

Aired Tuesday, March 31, at 9:00 p.m. on CPTV

As the worsening economy leads to massive job losses — potentially increasing the ranks of the tens of millions of Americans without health insurance — FRONTLINE travels the country examining the nation’s broken healthcare system and exploring the need for a fundamental overhaul. The scale of the problem now facing the Obama administration, FRONTLINE finds, is staggering, as lay-offs, major illness and other unexpected life changes leave more and more Americans uninsured, underinsured or uninsurable. FRONTLINE also goes inside insurance companies to question executives on their policies, programs and priorities and examines the problems in one state’s attempts at healthcare reform.

At its best, American health care can be very good. For Microsoft employee Mark Murray and his wife, Melinda, their employee health plan paid for eight years of fertility treatments and covered all the costs of a very complicated pregnancy. “If it wasn’t for our health insurance,” Murray says, “we wouldn’t have a baby boy right now.” The Murrays’ medical bills totaled between $500,000 and $1 million, and their plan covered every penny.

But beyond large, high-wage employers like Microsoft, FRONTLINE learns that available, affordable, adequate insurance is becoming hard to find. Small businesses face a very bleak outlook for finding and keeping coverage. Coverage is becoming more expensive and less comprehensive, with high deductibles, co-pays and coverage limits. Georgetown University Professor Karen Pollitz explains that for many people, the current system is “like having an airbag in your car that’s made out of tissue paper: I’m so glad that it’s there, but if I ever get in a crash, it’s not going to protect me.” Learn more...

 

The World Health Organization says U.S. health care rates 37th in the world in terms of quality and fairness

Frontline

Sick Around the World

Aired Tuesday, March 31, at 10:00 p.m. on CPTV

Four in five Americans say the healthcare system needs fundamental change. Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a healthcare system, or are these nations so culturally different that their solutions would not be acceptable? FRONTLINE correspondent T.R. Reid examines the healthcare systems of other advanced capitalist democracies, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland  to see what ideas might help the U.S. reform its broken healthcare system. Learn more... 

Listen to Jon Palfreman, the writer, producer and director of Sick Around America and Sick Around the World on WNPR's Where We Live.