Opening 11 Oct 2007
America's most controversial liberal filmmaker, Michael Moore, is at it again. After taking on corporate America, violence in schools, and our beloved president, he has turned his attention to our wonderful health care system. Unlike his other movies, Mr. Moore takes a back seat for most of the film and lets the story tell itself. Sure he goes to Cuba and delivers more than enough snarky comments here and there, but for the most part he allows the interviewees to take center stage.
The movie opens with some very alarming statistics. According to Moore 50 million Americans are uninsured and 18,000 die due to lack of insurance. When he set out to tell this story, he set up an email address inviting everyday folks to send in their personal health care horror stories. Within a week his email in-box was filled with a staggering 25,000 responses. It was clear that there was something to talk about.
Sicko begins with several stories illustrating the plight of the 50 million uninsured Americans and then moves on to address the kind of care received by those of us who are fortunate enough to have health care. Unlike his other movies Mr. Moore takes a back seat and allows his subjects to tell their stories during the first part of the film. In the later part of the movie he ventures forth and compares our system to the universal coverage health care systems of Canada, France, England and Cuba. It's here where he begins to put forth his wide-eyed faux-naive banter. Intercepting two young new parents exiting an English hospital he asks, "How much did they charge you for that baby?" and they respond, "Nothing; this isn't America."
Like many Americans, I am sometimes skeptical about Michael Moore. I see him as arrogant, self-promoting and downright obnoxious at times. But then I stop and think about what he brings forth and, if anything, they are always topics that are worthy of our attention. Sicko is a wonderful example of why I believe Mr. Moore is worth having around. In Sicko he doesn't preach about how to fix our health care system, he simply offers us examples of why it isn't working and compares it to several health care systems which he believes do work.
Now, you can't go to a Michael Moore movie and not stop and wonder how lopsided his view on the subject matter is. I did leave the theater wondering if we were exposed to the true picture of universal health care in Canada, France, England and Cuba. For example, since watching the movie I've asked several people living in England if the British National Health Service is so efficient and painless as depicted by Mr. Moore. For the most part I got a mixed response. Several people told me they do have to pay out of pocket when opting for a procedure not within the system’s proposed plan for whatever ailment, and waits at ER rooms can be quite long depending on which ER you visit. In other words, a visit to the doctor in Greenwich is a far different experience than a visit to the doctor in Liverpool. Also those that I spoke to noted that when faced with a serious illness requiring a specialist, they would prefer seeking treatment in the U.S. Apparently as far as specialized medicine goes, the U.S. is the place to go. After living through several re-occurences of prostate cancer with my father, I have to say I was relieved that he had access to the best care possible, a NYU urologist whose name appears on all of the ground-breaking procedures and treatments for prostate cancer in the U.S. On the flip side, my father quite honestly only has access to such care because he can afford it.
Since the release of his movie, there have been countless conversations about our health-care system, and that is what I feel is most truly effective about Sicko. More often than not the movie asks: Who are we as Americans? What have we become? Who are we to allow a young uninsured man to stitch his own torn knee cap? Who are we to allow a man to die because his HMO would not cover the experimental bone marrow operation that he needed to save his life? Who are we to allow insurers to deny our fellow citizens health insurance because they are too fat, thin, tall, skinny or have too many allergies?! These are just a smidgen of the health-care horror stories that Sicko puts forth. Will things change? Quite honestly, it doesn't look hopeful. Our once-shining light, Mrs. Clinton, as noted in Sicko, doesn't appear to be carrying the health-care reform torch anymore. Go see the movie; it will make you sick to see whose torch she is carrying now! (Karen Engelke)