Healthy discussion at HRTS

Panelists urge the industry to shine light on U.S. health-care reform

The entertainment industry needs to use its influence to bring about health-care reform.

That was the message delivered Thursday during a Hollywood Radio & Television Society luncheon — presented with Divided We Fail, led by AARP; the Entertainment Industry Foundation; and the Motion Picture & Television Fund — at the Beverly Hilton.

Keynote speaker Sally Field relayed anecdotes of women she's met around the country as she has spoken about her own diagnosis of osteoporosis. She was surprised to hear how many of them can't afford health care and encouraged her peers to use their celebrity to call attention to the issue.

"We can be valuable role models, particularly in the political process; let the paparazzi follow us there, for goodness' sake," she said to applause.

Field was followed by a panel that continued that line of thought. Neal Baer, a doctor-turned-writer/producer of shows like "Law & Order: SVU," cited data showing that only 54% of U.S. employers provide health care for their employees.

"The system is wrecked," he said. "As TV writers, we need to put it out there that health care is a need and not a commodity."

"Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence agreed, arguing that it's important to address health-care issues in series story lines but without being "too preachy" so as not to alienate viewers.

MPTF Foundation chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg also addressed the attendees, who left with a DVD copy of Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko," a criticism of the U.S. health-care system. (partialdiff)