Friday, June 29, 2007


We saw Sicko tonight. I had heard that it is Michael Moore’s best film ever and I totally, emphatically have to agree. While I appreciate his usual techniques, with his stunts and gotcha moments and feigned shock, I also think from a political viewpoint that sometimes his humor gets in the way of his points. This time, however, he stands back and allows the humor and pathos and irony to arise from the situations themselves, not from any stunts he pulls. Well ok, there is one major stunt, and it is a good one—he takes a bunch of people, including a few sick 9/11 rescue workers, to Cuba for healthcare—but generally he stands back and let his subjects make his points for him.

He quickly introduces the premise that it’s not just the uninsured who are desperate for healthcare in the US; even the insured in this country are getting dangerously substandard care. He then slowly builds a case that a healthcare system that is set up to profit the most by providing less and less care is designed to and thus doomed to screw over its patients. There were so many moving moments, from the opening sequences where a man without insurance sews up a large cut on his leg and another man explains how he cut off the tips of 2 fingers but could only afford to reattach one, to scenes of an older couple, insured yet still bankrupted by healthcare costs, moving in with their daughter, to a mother describing how her sick toddler died after being taken to an out-of-network hospital that refused to treat her, to a woman describing how her husband was denied a bone marrow transplant and died. There are enough of these stories that I began to cringe every time an older home video showed up on the screen; it meant we were going to hear another story about someone else killed by bureaucracy.

In between these stories Moore visited Canada, England, and France to show how socialized medicine functions in those countries. HINT: We don’t see the nightmarish waits and substandard care that our HMOs tell us exist. The comparison becomes painful. Moore gives us stats on how our system now ranks 37th in the world, how we are the only Western nation without subsidized healthcare for all people, how we have the infant mortality rate of a third world nation, how profits for healthcare companies and drug companies keep soaring while treatments gets worse and worse.

Moore questions why socialized medicine is seen as such a boogeyman in this country while socialized education, libraries, firefighters and police departments are seen as good things. (The looming hammer and sickle at this point provide some of the funniest moments.) Best of all though is the way that he relates socialized medicine to values that are in the American ethos, and connects our healthcare system to our entire way of life—our political passivity, our debt, and our fear. Near the end he has quick clips of people in various circumstance talking about how neighbors pull together to help each other (we see a community searching for a lost child, a woman taking meals to shut-ins, men rebuilding a house) and compares this to other countries where healthcare is included in that sort of sentiment. It seems like a nonpartisan sentiment to me, to want good healthcare for every one of my fellow Americans, and for even for non-Americans who wander in too (the scenes where Canadians talk about their experiences getting sick or injured in this country, and discuss how they will not come here without buying special insurance, should be painful to anyone who wants to be proud of this country). I think this sentiment should be nonpartisan, but I am sure after I post this and travel around the blogs reading reviews, that I will see plenty of those if-you-think-France-is-so-great-why-don’t-you-move-there and everything-Michael-Moore-says-is-fiction and if-we-socialze-medicine-they’ll-come-for-our-entire-way-of-life-next posts from people who make this a partisan issue.

And my God, if it has to be partisan, I am glad I am on the side that votes for not having children and adults die because they have no insurance, or because they have insurance, but they are at the wrong hospital, or they have insurance, but insurance company reps have quotas for how many claims they are supposed to deny, in short, the side that votes for LIFE.


Blogger kathy said...


6:18 AM  

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