Saturday, June 30, 2007

Review: Sicko by Michael Moore

I have very good health insurance. I'd gladly give it up for universal free coverage for all US citizens. I didn't need to see Michael Moore's new movie to come to that conclusion. However, Sicko certainly underscores my convictions. Now if it can only reach many more people and urge them on to action.

At the AMC West Market Cinema, I was disappointed that our viewing room was not jam packed with people. Friday night, prime movie time, and why wouldn't folks want to sit down to a rousing documentary? The audience that filled perhaps half of the theatre was certainly a knowledgeable one. Early in the film, we see a clip of a doctor testifying in front of congress. She admits on the record that in her job for an insurance company, she denied an operation to a man who needed it and consequently died because he didn't have it. The doctor was given a career boost for her efforts at saving the company money. Reactions shots in that scene included a glimpse of the young and very horrified Congressman Sherrod Brown. Instantly, a murmur swept across the theatre -- whispers of "Sherrrod" indicated an audience full of Democrats, and probably progressive ones at that!

How can we get people who are not aware into the theatre to see that movie? I fantasized citizen liberators taking over movieplexes nationwide and inserting Sicko into every theatre, so that the Dieharder 3 audience would have to watch Sicko before seeing Bruce Willis in action. And with the current crop of movies on screen now, I doubt many audiences would complain!

Sicko is a well-crafted documentary featuring personal health care stories -- a few familiar ones such as the LA hospitals dumping of indigent patients onto the sidewalks of Skid row, as well as plenty of sad new tales of insurance billing horror. We even get to see the very beginning of the medical insurance scam, created with the full cooperation and support of the Nixon White House. That little clip ought to be on every news show, so that people can start to realize that what one president created, another may dismantle.

Moore does an excellent job of opening our unobservant eyes. We go through life accepting that it is OK for some people not to have medical coverage, that bankruptcy from catastrophic medical bills is just "shit happening," and that the procedure your doctor wants you to have is one your insurance company says you can't have because it is "experimental" or your employer did not include it in your coverage. Medical care has become a game of chance in this country and we the people are seemingly OK with that.

Concerned about the politicians who have the power to fix things? You better believe they are in the deep with all the big medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Don't believe me? Go here to look at the current crop of presidential candidates. Ooops -- Hillary is at the top of the list, followed closely by Barack Obama and John Edwards on the Dem side. As for the Republicans, Romney is breathing down Hillary's neck, with McCain and Giuliani close behind.

You can bet for sure that all the leading candidates will say that they plan to reform health care, but every single plan will continue to support for-profit medical corporations in one way or another. Except for Kucinich and Gravel, of course, who continue to make perfect sense and are ignored by the mainstream.

Sicko contains amazing footage from countries that provide free medical care to all citizens, France, with the number one system in the world, even has teams of doctors on call 24 hours a day who make house calls. We get a glimpse of a country where quality of life is connected to time away from the job, whether it be to have a baby, recover from illness, or to enjoy all those hours away from the 35 hour a week job obligation. Yes, that's right -- in France workers only work 35 hours per week. If they work over time, they are compensated with more time off. And lets' not even think about those lovely five weeks of vacation every year!

Why do we let people make money off of other people's medical conditions? Why do we think it is OK to take away people's homes and savings in order to give them a life-saving procedure? Michael Moore says it is because we are kept in fear and in debt. The middle class college graduate looks for a job, already saddled with student loan debt that will take years to pay off. That graduate is not likely to rock any boats, but will take what is on offer even if it is not good enough. We are kept isolated by our debts, all our focus in on self rather than community. How convenient for the powers that be.

Go see Sicko and take someone with you, preferably someone who can be awakened to the madness and true sickness of our medical system.


KevinBBG said...

I'm really glad to see this movie come out, the sad condition of health care in this country has been terrible for a very long time. Long ago we decided medical care for profit was the way to go, something every other industrial country has rejected.

It is because we are fed the line that capitalism and competition are sacred and to give up any of it is sociailism, which is the most horrible thing there is, but the truth is the American system is horrible, and not just in health care. I was glad to hear that Moore put in info from France and other countries that show not only health care but other facts of their lifestyle, as opposed to the endless obsession with greed and ambition that exists here in America.

On the other hand, how can we not be obsessed with seeking wealth since we know the price of not being rich is often death? People often say it's a dog eat dog world but that is only true because conservatives have worked very hard for years to make it that way.

Cotswold Corner Diary said...

If you go to Britain as a tourist and get sick and require a doctor or even hospitalization Britain's national health system (NHS)will take care of you. When you leave the doctor's office or the hospital you might look for the place to pay your bill. You won't find it. There isn't any place to pay your bill or co-payment and nobody will send you a bill later in the mail.

Even the best of our insurance plans charge us for co-payments for office calls and prescriptions, and more. In Britain you walk away free as a bird. Britain's NHS system isn't bogged down with an expensive billing system. It has jettisoned the paperwork and the postage in favor of delivering complete care to all who need it without battalions of office workers pumping out paper. They see our system as top heavy, expensive, and non-productive. The money for NHS, collected from people's taxes, pays doctors and other health workers' salaries and the upkeep of hospitals. Oddly enough, the people of Britain, France, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and other European countries do not resent paying for national health. They consider good health an investment, not only in the present but in the future.

Our best chance for our own NHS was in 1948 when President Truman supported it, but in those days the American Medical Association opposed it with all its power. Back then the pharmaceuticals had little clout, but the AMA's doctor members in their shortsighted way believed that NHS would rob them of their riches. Besides, it sounded like socialism, and McCarthyism helped to kill it. C'est la vie!

Terra said...

Sicko was excellent. I feel like calling my insurance company every day and asking WHY I can't go to any hospital I want. I just can't understand paying $300 a month for something, and being given such limited choices when it comes to my health and safety. Crazy.

If you want to see the arguments against this, go to The Chief Source comments on the Sicko post. I haven't seen a good argument for the for-profit system, but those guys are really trying. It's the old lines about personal responsibility, capitalism, and the old rumors we've heard on Fox, etc.

I always wonder why we don't expect better of our country. And why we don't have the mindset to help those who are less off because that could be us someday.