Friday, June 29, 2007


I like Michael Moore the filmmaker and respect him as a political advocate, but man can he get on my nerves! Though I have enjoyed may of Moore’s films the one complaint I always come away disappointed with how he forces himself into the story and tends to showoff for the camera with crazy publicity stunts he forces into each film. Sicko is no exception to that rule, though for the first time in a long time Moore takes on an important issue without clear-cut “heroes” and “villains” on either side of the political landscape. The United States, he shows us, is one where Americans are guaranteed the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just not always the right to live. Though he paints a dark view of the insurance industry, they aren’t the real villains in the film. The villains, and the victims, it seems are both the American people who tolerate the broken healthcare system because for so long they’ve been sold a bill of goods that there’s nothing better available and have been made so fearful of the government they don’t dare demand something better. Well, for those people especially, here’s a look at how healthcare systems are flourishing in other countries and the devastating effect of America’s poor healthcare on its citizens.

The documentary is straightforward as Moore establishes his premise of examining the healthcare industry and spends the film showcasing those who are left behind, either to lack of health insurance or to the insurance companies which cover them refusing coverage for necessary, and possibly life-saving, treatment for their medical conditions.

For me the most interesting parts of the film are the travels to other countries including Canada, England, France, and Cuba and examining how the healthcare systems in those countries work.

One of the biggest lies ever told in the history of this country is that socialized medicine could never work and that government run healthcare would be too expensive and less reliable that privatized healthcare. Moore’s documentary proves this to be a bald-faced lie as he looks at the creation of the insurance industry and the reasoning behind it, and presents a refreshing realization that there may indeed be a better way.

One of the most intriguing moments is when Moore sits down for dinner with a group of Americans living and working in Paris. Together they discuss the ease and high-level of medical care and wellness and sick prevention given to them by their companies. It seems so implausible given the American system it will leave many Americans stunned. Along with the sobering realization that Americans, due to its current broken system, are falling further and further behind in terms of health and life expectancy. We’re getting sicker and dying as others are flourishing under systems deemed too expensive and impractical, and politicians still tout our healthcare system? That takes some kind of nerve, or a great deal of stupidity.

Moore does stumble once or twice while trying to showboat by rounding up a large group of Americans in need of healthcare, all ignored by their own insurance companies for treatment they have paid premiums for, and renting boats to take them to Guantanamo Bay. Why Guantanamo you ask? Well, it seems the worst terrorists in the world get better healthcare than any average American citizen can ever hope to achieve, no matter the policy. While it makes a good point, Moore, as he is often prone to do it these stunts, goes too far in showboating for the camera. Thankfully it is one of the few moments where it occurs. By comparison, taking a small group into a Cuban hospital to get the care they need is a remarkable and touching scene that shows both the level of competence and training in their doctors, but also the need and responsibility to help those who are sick which seems to be missing in many US hospitals. Compared to the horror stories Moore relays from many thousands of Americans, including 9/11 workers denied benefits for years, it will leave you ashamed.

In a world where Republicans shout “No Child Left Behind” we are leaving millions of Americans, many who are children, at a terrible disadvantage by refusing them the proper medical treatment they need, and would receive in other countries. Could socialized medicine work it this country? Yes, though it would mean paying taxes which many are reluctant to do. However, imagine the alternative of sending the money you currently spend on your health insurance directly to taxes, and then when you need medical care getting anything and everything you need free of charge. No charge for the hospital stay. No charge for aspirin or medication, no charge for test or surgery. No charge for an emergency room visit or a ride in an ambulance. No hassle of bargaining or threatening an insurance agency who refuses or balks to pay for treatment. No hassle, just walk in, get the medical care you need and walk out. So simple; it’s hard to believe we aren’t willing to give it a try.

Government run healthcare works in many developed countries around the world and their citizens are healthier and with longer life expectancies than current Americans. The truth is that Americans have a guaranteed right not only to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also to life and until they are willing to fight for the right to adequate health resources that citizens from other countries are given simply by paying taxes rather than putting our faith into an insurance industry that wants to bleed us dry and kill us without ever putting up money for expensive procedures, we will be a sick country for a long time.

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