Director Michael Moore sure gets people fired up.
At least, that is the hope of the Western New York Health Care Campaign, which gave away more than 100 free tickets for Monday night's screening of "Sicko," a new Moore documentary about the nation's health care system.
The event at the Amherst Dipson Theater was part of an effort to build a grass-roots movement of New Yorkers pushing for accessible quality health care across the state, said Allison Duwe of the Coalition for Economic Justice.
"The turnout here tonight is proof of a national crisis," Duwe said. "Our system is broken, . . . and action is needed now."
The regional health care campaign is a coalition of non-profits, health-care advocacy groups, religious organizations and unions that are pushing, through lobbying and educational efforts, for accessible, quality health care.
More than 3 million state residents lack health insurance, and many who spoke said the system could only be fixed with a push from the people.
"Our health care policy is a national disgrace," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo. "It takes somebody like Michael Moore to raise this issue to the level it needs to be raised to."
Hoyt said such state programs as Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus, which provide some insurance to New Yorkers who do not qualify for Medicaid, offer some relief. But he said more is needed.
Many said they came to the screening because they have watched friends and colleagues without health care struggle.
Dr. Rudolph Mueller of Jamestown told of a man who didn't go to the hospital to have a hernia treated because he had no health insurance.
Over the next two years, his condition deteriorated. Finally, he had to have a valve replaced, a procedure that cost more than $200,000.
"Ultimately this cost the system more than if he had insurance and had gotten his problems treated right away," Mueller said.
Others said they have health care, but their plans are insufficient.
"They said I'm making too much money [for health coverage]," said Betty Martin, president of the Transportation Aides of Buffalo, who earns about $9 an hour. "They make us jump through hoops."
John Buckley of Buffalo said a national push for universal health care is vitally important. Last year, when he fell and hurt his shoulder, he didn't see a doctor because he couldn't afford it.
"Everyone except the [American Medical Association] and drug companies are for [universal health care]," he said. "But nothing happens."