Friday, July 20, 2007


I saw "Sicko" on Tuesday, but haven't been able to post about it until now. Every American must see this film, it's really that simple. I'm going to give my thoughts on it, so it will include spoilers. If you don't want that, don't read any further


So far, this has my vote for "Film of the Year". I've liked all of Moore's films, but I think this could be his best, even beating out "Roger and Me". This could be for a lot of reasons, including the most obvious fact: that our health care system is desperately broken. Rather than explore a mass of theories, Moore goes the Ockham's Razor route (Ockman's Razor being the theory that the simplest solution is often the right one) and blames it on the fact that our health care system, unlike most of the western world, is a system based on profit. The health insurance companies that run our system are parts of corporations, and like any corporation, their sole purpose is to make a profit for their shareholders. Ensuring that everyone who is insured gets the care that they deserve would mean that the corporations won't make a profit, so they deny care (at a frightening rate) and even give bonuses and incentives to physicians who cut corners on caring for their patients.
As Moore makes clear at the beginning of "Sicko", this movie isn't about the 50 million Americans without health insurance. I'm sure that merits a film in and of itself. But "Sicko" deals with us 250 million people who are insured. So that means we're in paradise, right? Wrong. The film shows real-life examples of people who came down with serious health problems, where paying for deductibles, co-pays, and their monthly prenimums possibly rising as a result of their being sick, led to endless suffering. An amusing (but scary) part comes near the beginning, where Moore lists the health conditions that lead to an insurance company denying or cancelling your service to John Williams' theme of Star Wars. The list is almost endless. An example of how ridculous and money-hungry these companies are come when a young woman is talking about how she was charged for her ambulance ride to the hospital because she didn't "pre-authorize" it. She says, "Was I supposed to authorize it when I was out cold on the pavement? Or after I got to the hospital?"

The first part of the film deals with these horror stories, as well as the HMOs' and drug companies' propensity to make a profit, at the expense of caring for their patients. Moore shows the members of Congress, as well as Bush, and has a nice comic balloon above each of their heads, which shows how much the HMO industry has given them in campaign contributions. One noteworthy example is the Congressman Billy Tauzin who leads the charge to "reform" Medicare and put in a prescription drug plan that is run by the insurance industry. He says repeatedly, "No one loves their mother more than I do. All of us Republicans love our parents." Moore points out, "I'm sure he does love his mother. He just doesn't love the rest of our mothers as much." Shortly after the bill was passed, Tauzin quit Congress to take a job with yes... a major health insurance company as their CEO.

The second part of the film has Moore going to different countries with universal health insurance, including Canada, Britain and France. It's funny to see Moore talk to patients and doctors and bring up things like "where do you pay the bill", or "how much did it cost you to get looked at today?" They look at him with the same dumb expression on their faces. The experience of walking into a healthcare facility and the first thing being said to them is "give me your money" or "where's your insurance card", is alien to them. Moore also does a good job of showing that the bogeyman of "socialized medicine" limits your care and means long waits in the waiting room, is just that, a bogeyman. This bogeyman, incidientally, describes OUR OWN system rather than Canada or France's. I hope to pay off my loans, and then afterwards, try to move to Canada (as soon as I get a job, of course).

In the final minutes, and the most moving, Moore takes 9/11 rescue workers among others, to Gitmo for health care. He shows how the "evildoers" behind 9/11 and Al-Qaeda get free health care at Gitmo, he just wanted the same for some of the people who came to our aid on 9/11 but weren't being helped. After no response, he goes to the Cuban mainland. He goes to a doctor who vows to help each person to the best of his ability. One woman cries and thanks him, saying that it's wonderful to not have to pay. Truthfully, I almost cried, I was deeply moved that even a country like Cuba can take better care of U.S. citizens than the U.S. itself could. As they leave Cuba, a group of Cuban firemen stand at attention and give their thanks and honor to the rescue workers. I mean, this is Cuba, a country whose people have every reason to hate us, and they're reaching out to the rescue workers. It was really incredible.

So, again, please see this movie. Chances are if you're reading this, you probably won't have to, since as with all Moore's movies, they're best suited for the people who don't really know what time it is. But you should see it anyway, nonetheless.

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