One of the most powerful scenes in Sicko features Linda Peeno, a doctor whose shocking testimony stunned Congress in 1996. Linda is a former medical director for a large health maintenance organization (HMO).
In her testimony, Linda said, "In the spring of 1987, as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would have saved his life and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this because, in fact, what I did was I saved a company a half a million dollars for this."
Linda confessed that this denial secured her reputation as a "good medical director" and helped her career. In fact, she said she went from making a few hundred dollars a week as a medical reviewer to a six-figure income as a physician executive.
"In all my work, I had one primary duty, and that was to use my medical expertise for the financial benefit of the organization for which I worked," she said. "I know how managed care maims and kills patients, and I'm haunted by the thousands of pieces of paper on which I have written that deadly word: denied."
If Linda still worked for an HMO, she says she could stand before Congress today and give the exact same testimony. "The only thing I would have to add to it was that things are worse."