Why Obamacare Is Doomed -- The Hollywood Version

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Here’s a paradox of liberalism: Hollywood hurts the Obama health care plan more than it helps. Hurts it a lot more.

But how could that be, one might ask, when everyone knows that studio moguls, as well as actors and writers, are solidly “blue” in their politics--and in their campaign contributions? The answer is this: Yes, Hollywoodites think liberal, but when it comes to making movies, they think a bit more conservatively. More precisely, they think in terms of what real people will want to see, and that pushes in a center-right direction, which is where the country is.

Oh sure, they might give a few thousand dollars to chic liberal Democrats every couple of years, but when it comes to spending tens of millions on a movie--in hopes of making a lot more than that in return--they are a good deal more, well, conservative. A case in point is the new film, “Extraordinary Measures,” starring Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford. The movie is an out-and-out tribute to science, family values, and, yes, entrepreneurial capitalism. Obamacare, with its emphasis on bureaucratic rationing and government control, is nowhere to be seen.

If the Obamans had stopped to think about the implications of such a movie being made in 2010--released by CBS Films, no less--they would have realized that their fundamental approach to healthcare is wrongheaded, at odds with the way that Americans think about health issues. Whereas the Obamans want us to have less health care, “Extraordinary Measures” wants us to have more medicine, more cures.

“Measures” tells the mostly true story of John Crowley, a business executive whose two children were diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a degenerative neuromuscular disease that paralyzes, then kills, its victims, usually before their 10th birthday. In other words, it is a horrible disease, fully worthy of a massive effort to cure it; “I wish we had a drug to treat Pompe,” one character says early on--“but we don’t.” And so the issue of health insurance, while important, is not as important as the issue of cures. If there’s no cure for Pompe Disease, children die a painful death--and an expensive death, involving lots of time in hospitals, lots of expensive therapy equipment. But if here is a cure, the children can grow up to become productive citizens.

As for John Crowley, he did something truly daring and capitalistically heroic--right out of an Ayn Rand novel. Starting with $100,000 of his own money, he quit his job and started a company to make the cure for Pompe and so save his children. And it worked--let’s hear it for capitalism and freedom. Fictional composites aside, this is basically a true story, as recorded by a Wall Street Journal reporter, Geeta Anand, in her 2006 book,  "The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million--And Bucked the Medical Establishment--In a Quest to Save His Children."

And so yes, it’s an inspiring story of family love and duty--although, of course, Hollywood has made many movies in the past out of similar stories. “Magnificent Obsession,” about a man who goes to medical school to restore the sight of the woman he loves, has been made and remade--although, to be sure, most medical dramas coming out of Hollywood go to TV, where for half a century, dramas ranging from “Dr. Kildare” to “Marcus Welby” to “ER” to “House” have emphasized heroic doctors, practicing heroic medicine. Indeed, the currently running “House,” about a crazy-brilliant doctor who breaks all the rules in his determination to cure his patients, is  rated as the most popular television show in the world.

So if people love medical drama, focusing on cures, then Hollywood loves medical drama, focusing on cures. Show business is, after all, a business.

But politics is a business, too, and so one would think that politicians would know what they are doing. But maybe not. Obamacare, like Clintoncare before it, is bureaucratic and boring. And that’s on a good day. Last August, The Nation’s Chris Hayes, a liberal-leftist supporter of Obama, perfectly described what the Obamans had done to the health care issue:
In its health care messaging, the White House has taken an issue more intimate and immediate than perhaps any other in a voter’s life and transformed it into an abstract, technical argument about long-term actuarial projections. It’s a peculiar kind of reverse political alchemy: transforming gold into lead.

Turning gold into lead--not at all what Hollywood is about. If there’s one thing Hollywood prides itself on, it’s getting bottoms into seats, and eyeballs onto screens. And if that takes drama and excitement, so be it: The show must go on.

One might think that at one of those posh L.A. fundraisers, some Tinseltown type would have taken Obama aside and said, “Look, your whole campaign is about ‘hope.’ Hollywood movies are about hope; 98 percent of the time, the picture ends happily. So enough with the bureaucrats and the ‘death panels’--give the folks some reason to hope! Talk about cures! A cure for breast cancer. A cure for Alzheimer’s. For Parkinson’s. A cure for spinal cord injuries and paralysis--that would play with families of war veterans. Pick one of those; trust me, it’ll play well in Peoria, especially if we get Michael J. Fox involved. And then, once you have the trust and confidence of the folks, you can pile on with the rationers and price controls!” In other words, the mogul might have said, turn Obamacare into a movie with a happy ending--not a sorry and scary show starring Kafka-esque bureaucrats.

But if anything like that conversation occurred, the Obamans didn’t listen. Like the Clintonites two decades ago, they charged ahead with a health care plan that bombed.

Now as it happens, “Extraordinary Measures” has received mostly weak critical reviews, and is not doing particular well at the box office.

Perhaps the disease, Pompe, is too obscure. Perhaps, as noted, TV has absorbed the huge market for “true med” stories.

So there might not ever be a sequel to “Measures.” But here’s a safe bet: No matter how much they might love Obama, Hollywood execs will never greenlight “Obamacare: The Movie.”

James P. Pinkerton is founder and editor of Serious Medicine Strategy.com and a Fox News contributor.