A question to ponder, if both your middle and ring finger were accidentally cut off by a band-saw and the cost to have the ring finger re-attached was $12,000 while to have your middle finger re-attached was $60,000: which finger would you choose? Would you be the hopeless romantic or is the lure to flip the bird worth sixty grand? What sounds like a classic what-would-you-rather question is in fact a true account of the horrors of the heath care system in the United States. In Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Sicko, he exposes the corruption of America’s private medical and pharmaceutical industry. The film follows in the footsteps of Moore’s pervious films, Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) which showcased the ills of the American way of life and the greatest perversion of the American public since the Nixon administration.
Moore examines countless cases of the lapse of quality and affordable healthcare created by the privatize medical industry, where declining a person a life-saving medical procedure can earn a HMO’s chairmen a pay-bump. While researching for the film, Moore created an online forum and asked people to email him their healthcare horror stories, in a week he had over 160,000 responses. The stories ranged from 9/11 rescue workers being declined care for the number of life-threating respiratory illness they contracted to an elderly man forced out of retirement due to the cost of his prescription drugs. Moore even received emails from HMO employees sicken by the blood on their hands. A health insurance call-centre operator breaks down in tears on screen as she recounts the tale of a couple who were declined an insurance policy due to a persisting medical condition. “They were so happy that they were finally going to get health insurance”, the call-center operator said as she wiped tears from her face, “but I knew from just looking at the application they were going to be turned down, but I couldn’t say anything to them.”
Nobody gives a shit about anything until Michael Moore makes a documentary about it.
Moore as always reports his facts with a dry wit, as he follows a single mother over to Canada to purchase prescription drugs illegally, a border agent asks if the camera is on, Moore bluntly replies, “No”, as the tape rolls on. A father fed with up his health insurance company for only approving one of two implants his deaf daughter needs to hear correctly writes an angry letter to their medical director. He threatens the director that he’s contacting Moore about the denial, “Have you ever been in a film?” the father asks in the angry letter. A week later the father receives a call from the director, both implants were approved. Moore even commandeers a fleet of fishing ships to take a group of down-trotted and uninsured Americans to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in hopes to receive medical treatment. The navel base and terrorist containment camp is the only place on U.S. soil that offers free, universal health care to non-other but terrorist suspects. As Moore and his caravan are turned away, they venture to the last place any god-fearing, good American would even step foot on, Cuba. Not to anyone surprise, other then George W’s, they are all welcome with open arms. The laughs quickly shifts to a sobering moment as one of the 9/11 rescuers who was suffering from a series of respiratory illnesses, discovers that a must needed prescription that cost more than $100 in the U.S. costs only five cents in Cuba. If Cuba, a tiny country with little to no resources that has been under a U.S. led embargo for over 50 years can provide its citizens with free, universal health care, any country can. The granddaughter of Cuba’s beloved Che Guevara put things into perspective as she echoes her grandfather’s vision of equal rights, “For the people of Cuba, they work not for themselves but to help their way of life.”
The film does a great job of covering the issue from every possible angle, including how the medical industry became privatized. The birth of the HMO is owed to non other then Richard Nixon, who in taped conversation with then White House aid, John Ehrlichman, who urges the president to get behind a proposal by a physician, Edgar Kaiser. Nixon stood to gain from the health of Americans being sold to the highest bidder. The next day, Nixon announced the HMO Act of 1973, thus the birth of Kaiser Permanente’s HMO approach to health care. Its was very disheartening to see how easily politicians can bought by the health care industry, as Moore showcases ex-first lady, Hilary Rodham Clinton, who during her husband’s presidency led a fierce campaign for universal health care. She is now one of the largest recipients of political contributions from the health care industry. What a difference a few years and a race for the presidency can make.
As the film rolled on, I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty for, not directly, but, in someway, allowing for this mess to come about. When Moore travel to Europe, a Frenchmen explained how in France the government is scared of the people, not the other way around. They do not sit idly by, for the French a Sunday protest is as common as a soccer match. Whereas in the states, any such actions are looked down upon could possibly cost a person their job, or worst, their health insurance. Sicko will hopefully light a fire your belly, reminding you why you went to see the damn movie in the first place. Perhaps the greatest thing the film showcased is how nobody gives a shit about anything until Michael Moore makes a documentary about it.