Michael Moore, Hillary Clinton, and Judge Christopher Kulik want universal health care now; and, hey, if it doesn't work out, you can always marry a Canadian!
"If you can find money to kill people, then you can find money to help people!"—-- Tony Benn
Michael Moore is at it again. After attacking big business (Roger & Me), our obsession with guns (Bowling for Columbine) and the Bush administration (Fahrenheit 9/11,), Moore now presents another immensely researched, highly entertaining cinematic essay. This time on the U.S. health care industry, and the question he poses is this: how can we not have universal health care in the world's richest country? According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is currently at the 37th position of world health care, just slightly ahead of Slovenia. Oh, and who is number one you might be wondering? Answer: FRANCE!
Facts of the Case
In early 2006, Moore wrote a letter asking people all over the country to send him their health care horror stories, and posted it on his website. The staggering amount of emails he had recieved was proof to him that the evils of HMOs was not to be ignored. For the bulk of the film he goes to interview the individuals with the most shocking personal testimonies, and then travel to four other countries to compare and contrast their health care systems with ours.
We meet an intensive care nurse named Julie Pierce, who tragically lost her husband Tracy to kidney cancer after an ongoing battle with her insurance to recieve coverage. Their excuse? Answer: It was not a medical necessity! We also meet Danelle Keyes, whose precious 4-year-old daughter Mychelle died of a high fever, after Kaiser Permanente ordered the doctors at the local hospital to not treat her. Why? Because Danelle should have taken Mychelle to an in-house Kaiser facility. There is also Adrian Campbell, who recently contracted cervical cancer at only 22 years old and was denied coverage because she was "too young" and thus "shouldn't have cancer" according to her insurance company. So, she marries a Canadian so she could recieve universal health care coverage at no cost. If you're interested, go to www.hook-a-canuck.com.
Interspersed between these emotionally overwhelming interviews, Moore travels to Canada, England, and France and is stunned at how well the countries are doing without HMOs. Eventually, he meets several sick 9/11 rescue workers who have been having serious problems being treated in the U.S., so he takes them down to Guantanomo Bay, Cuba where the military is providing top-notch medical care to Al Quada. After being ignored, they venture into Cuba, where they are welcomed with open arms—-and get treated at no cost!
First, I would like to offer a testimony if I may about being a patient in a British hospital. In late 2003, while I was stationed near Newquay with the U.S. Navy, I had developed severe stomach pains one day before going to work. I was in so much pain, that I had no choice but to call the hospital, where an ambulance arrived in less than 10 minutes—-and I was out in a tiny village near the ocean, mind you. I was transported to the hospital, checked out, and was ordered to stay for some tests. After three days, I went for an ultrasound, and the doctors discovered that my appendix was seriously flaring. One hour later, I went into emergency surgery, and when they removed it they told me that my appendix was three times the normal size! I then stayed in the hospital for another week for rest. (Well, actually, they didn't want to release me until they were sure that I could shit with no problems.)
Waiting three days for an appendectomy was indeed scary, and it wasn't a week after I was released from the hospital that a friend told me, "That sucks! If you were in America, you would have gone into surgery right after arriving at the hospital." That may be true, but after watching Sicko (and confirming it with several other friends in England), there is one major thing to take into account: even if I wasn't in the military, the surgery and stay in the hospital would have been completely free! Sure, I would have had to pay a little for some medications, though I wouldn't have had to deal with thousand of dollars worth of doctor and surgery bills. On top of that, I would have been guaranteed treatment, and wouldn't have had to worry about a money-grubbing insurance company that is more concerned about maximizing profits via denying health care.
Watching Sicko has made me realize how much I miss living in the United Kingdom. It also makes me think of my parents. When my father died of brain cancer several months before I had my appendectomy, he did not have health insurance (which I wasn't aware of, by the way). The hospital bills totaled over $120,000. Now, you could blame him for not obtaining coverage, but what if I said he was denied because he was "too fat"? The man weighed over 350 lbs, and to an insurance company that is too much of a risk to grant coverage. To me, that is no more ridiculous than a woman being denied because in her distant past she had a…do de do de do de do…a yeast infection!
The answer is obvious: HMO's don't give a damn about who they are covering, but only care about maximizing profits. One key interview that Moore manages to catch is one with Lee Einer, a former hitman who would look for any loophole in your medical history to deny. And, you know what, if he can't find a loophole, then he could create one just for you. Einer treats your case as if it was a murder investigation instead of a proper medical screening.
Like most of his films, Moore adds humor, satire and archival footage to give us a look at the last 50 years of U.S. health care. The roots of privatized health are found in the early 1970s, when President Richard Nixon hatched a plan with Edgar Kaiser (Permanente) to create an industry that would thrive on profit. Bear in mind that this was during the Cold War, and the last thing the government wanted was socialized medicine. In fact, because of the combined efforts of political leaders and the doctors of the American Medical Association, they wanted to ensure that medicine would never be unive…err, excuse me…socialized. One of the most interesting tidbits that Moore also includes is an LP album which was narrated by Ronald Reagan in the early 1960s about the "evils" of Red Medicine. Naturally, when I saw this film in the theaters with an audience, much of this archival footage was laughed at.
We, sadly, live in a country where the government, media, and people like Ann Coulter thrive on spreading fear and saying that conservative thought is superior…and everyone else is wrong. (I'm sure those bitching at the Free Republic website will have a field day attacking me at some stage!) Going back to Sicko, my whole point is that how can people say we have the finest health care in the world (and also be the greatest country in the world) when thousands people die because of being denied insurance coverage, while those living in other countries are treated because its guarateed with no strings and at no cost. The media (particulary Fox News) likes to slam universal health care with horror stories of longer waits, inadequate medical supplies, and other bullshit they love to conjure up.
Let me say this: I've been to many countries which have universal health care run by the government (including Canada, England, France, and Australia), and I've heard much praise for it by its citizens. While I had to wait three days for my appendectomy, there is something you need to consider: in the UK (as with other countries), everyone is covered, while here there is 50 million people with no insurance. Is there is going to be longer waits? Sure, but at least you can go the hospital not worrying about your HMO approving the trip. Plus, it's "free," albeit in the sense that you pay via taxes, though that doesn't mean you will find yourself drowning in debt. I'd rather take the guarantee than the rejecting middleman.
We all know that Michael Moore has become one of the most controversial figures in the 21st century, with his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11 being a no-holds-barred attack against George W. Bush, citing his business relationship with the Saudis and his pathetic excuses for bringing us into another war that has gotten worse than Vietnam. Republicans and conservatives were outraged, and retaliation soon followed. They accused Moore of being a liar, twisting the truth around, being one-sided, spreading propoganda and—-most of all—-hating America. Hey, I was accused of being a traitor by those I worked with in the military just because I owned a copy of Moore's film. People will believe what they want to believe, though let me say that I don't consider Moore's work one-sided because we have been hearing the other side for years. I don't think that Moore hates America because if he did, then he wouldn't even be living here. While he may show no mercy with some of this subjects, the fact is he is trying to help America by educating them on these controversial issues
Unlike the press, at least Moore asks hard questions which deserve more than satisfactory answers. Moore has his own views just like anyone else, and sure there will be those who disagree with those views. The reason why I recommend Sicko more than his previous films because this is an issue that affects every American…and the critical reception at the box office more or less confirmed that. (Even Fox News gave it a great review!) Indeed, he attacks both sides of the political spectrum for their dirty dealings, starting with the lobbyists from the pharmacuetical industries and insurance companies for ensuring that HMOs stay…and continue to become rich. When Moore presents Billy Tozin, a congressman who left Capital Hill to join the drug industry lobby for a yearly pay of 2 million dollars, it made me sick. It must be noted, though, that Moore amusingly includes the song "I've Got A Golden Ticket" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for good satirical measure while talking about Tozin.
Perhaps the most powerful (and ironic) segment of the film, however, is the climactic one where Moore and the sick 9/11 rescue workers venture down to Cuba, though even I had some issues with it, which I will go into more detail in the Rebuttal Witnesses section. As for all the inteviews, one that truly stands out is when Moore meets Tony Benn, a former member of the British parliament who discusses what democratically inspired the United Kingdom to go to universal health care shortly after World War II. Considering the fact that Benn grew up during this period, it only gives us a closer perspective at the system's creation…and the reasoning behind while it won't change any time soon.
Sicko has come from the Weinstein Company in a nice special edition package. The print is more than watchable, with the creaky, mostly black-and-white archival footage blending surprisingly with the recent interviews and Moore's world tour. As for the special features, they run hot-and-cold, as Moore provides no less than eight featurettes (which is mostly comprised of deleted scenes), a music video, the original theatrical trailer, and the full list of DVD credits. Some of them are obligatory (like an interview with a Cuban nun that lasts only a minute), though others do add more insight, like when Moore visits Norway, and discovers something so ideal and utopian that he couldn't even put it in the film, because of the conservatives who would condemn him more for his "lies." The extended interview with Tony Benn adds more intellectual juice, and the Hollywood premiere segment is admittedly touching, where Moore decides to show the film in Skid Row.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've never been to Cuba, so I can't say whether or not the health care system down there is as wonderful as Moore paints it to be. It makes me question why Cuba is even lower on the World Health Organization's list of health care, at number 39. It goes back to Moore not including the entire truth in his work, though that doesn't mean he is lying either. However, what is is true that they have a universal care system which is run by the government. Of course, that government is run by a man who we consider one of the U.S.'s biggest enemies. When George W. Bush says he won't yield until Castro allows freedom on the island, I would have shot back at him with questions like, "Have you ever been to Cuba?" or "Are you a fly on Castro's ass?" Still, something about their health care seems to good to be true, and maybe I should journey to Ricky Ricardo's homeland sometime soon and find out.
I don't know about all of you, but I would love to live in a country where you are guaranteed treatment at a hospital…and get a transportation refund after being released, just like in England. I would love to live in a country where we don't have lobbyists financially controlling those who we vote into Congress, particulalry when they are supposed to be carrying out our requests. I would love to live in a country that has universal health care where everyone can be treated, no matter how rich or poor you are. Oh, yeah, and if the government can come to my house every week and do my laundry, that would just kick ass!
Alas, that country is not the United States. Before she sold herself out, Hillary Clinton was for universal health care. And, she is promising to make it reality while on her 2008 campaign trail. However, it seems there will be many battles to fight until we see that day. Whether you like Michael Moore or not, I think that everyone give Sicko a chance. Like all his films, he sparks debate and conversation because it presents a valid argument on an important issue which others are too afraid to tackle. Don't judge the man, just understand the issue at hand.
Michael Moore and the film are acquitted on all charges. Get well soon!
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• "Sicko Goes To Washington" Featurette
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