Health Care Biz Braces for “Sicko”

Will there be a health care industry response to Michael Moore’s “Sicko”?

You can already see the pic shaking up the health care debate — or at least the way that the debate is waged.

I have been told that some health care groups have been so concerned about the movie that last year, they tried to retain public affairs experts to influence the outcome of the movie — but were bluntly told that that is just about the last thing you want to do to a Michael Moore.

One group, Consumers for Health Care Choices Foiundation, is offering fiscal sponsorship for a counter doc, “Sick and Sicker,” produced by Logan Darrow Clements, but more money needs to be raised.

But leading representatives for Pharma and health insurers are publicly trying to rise above the pic, casting themselves as working on expanding coverage.

With the news that the film will hit theaters on June 29, Ken Johnson, senior VP of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, “A review of America’s health care system should be balanced, thoughtful and well-researched to pin down what works and what needs to be improved. You won’t get that from Michael Moore.”

He adds, in a statement, “Our attention is focused on more important matters than Michael Moore’s latest escapades. While he’s finding new ways to advance his political agenda, PhRMA is seeking to improve and expand health care coverage in America through Partnership for Prescription Assistance, an effort supported by pharmaceutical companies and more than 1,300 local, state and national partner groups like the American Academy of Family Physicians, United Way and the American Cancer Society.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the major trade group repping insurance companies, takes a similar approach.

“Our view is that Michael Moore is a well known Hollywood entertainer and we expect that there will be attention to his latest movie,” says spokeswoman Susan Pisano, adding that they are “very focused” on issues such as universal coverage and quality health care.

“Our focus is really on the big health care picture.”

With the proliferation of TV medical dramas — and quite a few negative storylines about insurance companies — the group retained the William Morris Agency back in 2002 in what was regarded as an effort to enhance the insurance industry’s image. “We continue to work with them,” Pisano says.

“We engage in all the issues, and will be prepared to engage in whatever discussion comes out of the movie.”

For its part, the Weinstein Co. has retained Chris Lehane, who was chief spokesman for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, as a strategist.

Corrections were made to this post. Consumers for Health Care Choices Foundation is offering fiscal sponsorship of the movie “Sick and Sicker.”

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