Whatever their politics, anyone with any interest in the American healthcare system – as a consumer, provider, employer, or insurer- should see this film, making its Salem debut Thursday at the Salem Progressive Film Series.

By conducting a series of interviews with people as disparate as the CEO of Safeway, the head of the Cleveland Clinic, and the top brass of the army health corps, Matthew Heineman and Susan Fromke explore the nature of our broken healthcare system – which, as one interviewee points out, is really a “disease care system” – and depict simple and effective solutions.  Not surprisingly, many of these solutions are within the control of the consumers themselves: healthful diet, enough exercise, stress control, and smoking cessation.

Escape Fire follows several people as they struggle with the system: a mother who had her first heart attack at 35, who has had two dozen stents and heart cauterizations but whose weight, diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure remains out of control.  A doctor in an Oregon clinic who quits her job in disgust because she is paid by the volume of patients she sees in a day and is interested in caring for people rather than “getting my productivity up.”  A returning Afghan vet, a self-described “tough Louisiana boy, jest an ol’ hillbilly” who comes home addicted to a shopping bag full of narcotics and pain meds, but kicks his habit by opening up to the possibilities of alternative medicine, including yoga, meditation, and acupuncture.

Escape Fire is as engrossing as a good mystery story as it tracks the money – exploring the connections between multinational pharmaceutical companies, insurance carriers, highly-paid lobbyists, and large campaign contributions.  The film is both enraging and inspirational – the fix is so simple, why in a country of our wealth and resources haven’t we solved the problem already?  The answer is succinctly expressed by one doctor: “when medicine became a business we lost our moral compass.”  (Oregon’s own Ron Wyden appears in a cameo role.)

After the film, there will be two speakers:  Dr. Erin Martin, the Oregon doctor who appears in the film, and Aaron Crane, CFO of Salem Hospital, and a discussion. The Salem Progressive Film Series takes place every second Thursday at the Grand Theatre on High Street at 7:00 pm.

Escape Fire
December 14
Grand Theatre
191 High Street, Salem
salemprogressivefilms.net