Monday, November 10, 2008

"Sicko": An Indictment Worthy of Airing

This review may not exactly be timely, but - better late than never.

Documentary film maker Michael Moore may have trouble hiding his biases and political prejudices, but he nonetheless has a way of making people sit up and take notice. In his 2007 release, Sicko, he adeptly tugs at the emotional strings of his viewers in order to make his point that something is very wrong with the American health care system.

Pointing out it's bad enough nearly 50 million Americans are without health care insurance of any kind, Moore goes on to expose what many people who do have health insurance have known for a long time: they have to fight routine denials of coverage they believed they were entitled to. Trotting out industry insiders-turned-whistleblowers, Moore makes plain the Achilles heel of the profit-driven scheme: that denying coverage is an integral aspect of the plan to achieve a favorable bottom line. During one interview, Moore listens as an HMO specialist reveals an incentive scheme in which bonuses are paid out to managers who deny the most in claims.

For contrasting effect, Moore takes a look at the health care systems of England, France, Cuba, and - for humorous emphasis - the medical wing of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station's detention center where al-Qaeda terror suspects, of course, receive free medical care.

Moore glosses over the real cost of universal health care in these countries, which is of course very high taxes. What becomes plain in Sicko, however, is that the people in these countries seem more than willing to live with the system they have erected and appear to have few complaints. In other words, the free delivery of comprehensive health care is made a priority.

In responding to critics' fears of "socialized" medicine, Moore points out that here in America we are already perfectly willing to socialize a few things we deem to be of sufficient priority like fire protection, police protection, primary education, etc. The inference to be drawn is clearly that Americans have yet to reach the point where health care is seen as the same kind of necessity - a nearly absolute one. Or maybe they have, but the profit-minded behemoths protecting the system presently in place are too well connected politically to allow the changes Americans seem to be wanting.

Sicko lays bare many of the fissures in the present American health care system. What it does not do - nor does it purport to - is offer details for an alternative plan. Moore simply puts on display the benefits of a free, universal system and ponders what Americans could achieve if they could muster the political will to abandon the dysfunctional status quo.


  1. I saw "Sicko" in the theatre.

    I made some points but sometimes goes a little overboard. It's still worth watching and I will probably try to see it again soon.

    Another interesting movie on the same subject is called "Damaged Care." Check it out at your video store.

    "Laura Dern ("Jurassic Park", "Blue Velvet") gives a scintillating performance in "Damaged Care," the true story of Dr. Linda Peeno, a woman pushed to the edge, risking her career and family to punish the ruthless companies who valued profit over human life. Trained as a doctor, Linda in medicine for a family life but after learning that a new type of medical insurance was treat in the rich at the expense of the poor for greater profits, she went all out, using her experience to testify on behalf of patients suing the insurers. The task seemed impossible. The risks too great. But if it only takes one man to build a multi-million dollar corporation, then it only takes one woman to bring it back down."

    Again, there may be a little Hollywood in these movies, but also some points that are well worth digesting.

  2. I have just moved this up on my Netflix Que. I think Moore goes overboard on purpose, but he does it for a reason, the little man is getting stuck. I will reply again once I see it. But for the most I like Moore's' films.

  3. I am far from a Michael Moore fan, but this is actually a movie I have been meaning to watch for sometime. I will add it back to my Netflix queue and get back to you after seeing it!