War Of Words For Gupta And Moore

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Moore
AP/Getty Images
Michael Moore and Dr. Sanjay Gupta agree that most Americans are unhappy with the healthcare system. They disagree on much more, a fact that couldn't be missed as the documentarian and CNN's medical correspondent again debated facts and figures related to Moore's movie, "Sicko."

The forum was CNN's "Larry King Live," on which both men made a return appearance a day after Moore appeared on the program Monday and said Gupta had been flawed and biased in a report on the healthcare issues raised by "Sicko."

Tuesday, the argument was intense as Gupta and Moore interrupted each other. Gupta frequently chided Moore and called him by his first name. At one point, Moore simply stopped talking and shook his head in disbelief.

Moore said that Gupta's report used old numbers when he said that the United States spends around $6,000 per person on health care — contradicting the statistics in "Sicko," which Moore said are from the 2007 Health and Human Services Department and show that the U.S. spends about $7,000 per citizen.

"It's about a $1,400 difference," Moore said. "He's using 2004 statistics."

Photos: Michael Moore
Gupta accused Moore of cherrypicking facts and sources but conceded that he was wrong about the amount of money Cuba spends per citizen on health care. Gupta said Moore's film said Cuba spends $25 per patient, when actually Cuba spends $229 per citizen. Gupta had it wrong. Moore actually said Cuba spends $251 per citizen.

"We said 25, misquoted him … that was a mistake of ours. It was an error of transcription," Gupta told King.

Gupta said that although the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't offer free and universal health care, but that doesn't mean that it's perfect elsewhere: for example, Canadians wait far longer to be seen by a doctor. He quoted an expert who said that higher taxes in nations like France do not mean that quality of care is higher. Gupta also said that Moore fudges some facts in his film.

Although the movie opens up an important discussion, Gupta said the problem is that Moore makes broad claims without backing them up.

"I think it strikes at this irrefutable fact that just about every American that you spoke to, Michael, that I spoke to, is unhappy with the health care system," Gupta said. "It's broken. We get it. The fact that you try to peg me or anybody else with somehow responsible or not fixing it in some way is ludicrous."

Moore said none of his facts are fudged, but Gupta said that incorrect numbers blacken the eyes of people who want to make changes with health care. He said that calling France's health care system free was "murky at best."

"It is free," Moore said. "When will I get to say something here?"

King stepped in.

Moore paused: "Man, oh, man."

"We got Michael Moore speechless, that's hard to do," Gupta said.

"I'm trying to say something here and you just go on with another diatribe," Moore said.

He went on to explain that co-pays, deductibles and the profits made by insurance companies cost Americans more than countries like France and Britain, which have high taxes to cover all citizens.

"To just say to someone who doesn't have a sophisticated understanding of exactly how health care works that it's free is simply not true," Gupta said.

Moore asked Gupta if, as a doctor, he likes calling the insurance company before he can perform a procedure a patient needs. Gupta said it's a shameful system but said that Moore criticizes the government, yet is willing to hand over the "precious commodity" that is health care.

It's clear that Moore and Gupta agree on some things but differ on how to approach the issue. King had to end the debate after a half hour but promised that both men would come back to discuss the issue further.