Sunday, July 8, 2007


I saw a matinee of Michael Moore's new film, "SiCKO" today. The film is an exploration and denouncement of America's health care industry, with special emphasis on the health insurance companies. I have a mixed impression of Moore's work. I saw him give a lecture live in 2004 and he was friendly and punctuated his points susinctly, but he tended to be partisan towards the left and a little bit whiny. On film, I loved "Roger & Me" and most all of "Bowling for Columbine" (why did he have to go after Dick Clark in that film?). "Fahrenheit 9/11" just made me mad at Bush and was purely a partisan film. However, "SiCKO" was even-handed, mature and totally gut-wrenching. Moore solicited stories from Americans who suffered health insurance nightmares where they couldn't afford health care or their insurance companies wouldn't cover certain ailments or medical conditions, flatly refusing treatments and operations. When you hear from the woman whose husband needed a bone marrow transplant and was refused because the insurance company deemed it an "experimental" procedure, and he later died, it makes you think about how greedy the insurance companies are. Then Moore goes to Canada, England and France, where they have socialized health care and the citizens pay for the nation's health care through taxation and it really is an eye-opener. Visits to the doctor and hospital are free and as a result, the infant mortality rates are lower and life expectancies are higher in those countries. The final, moving scene in the film is the one where a group of rescue workers who responded to the World Trade Center terrorists attacks on 9/11 were denied operations or charged exorbinant amounts for medicine they needed from injuries sustained responding to Ground Zero in Manhattan. Moore takes them to Guantanimo Bay, Cuba where the terror suspects are receiving free health care at the U.S. Naval Base there. When that fails, Moore takes the rescue workers into Havana where they receive free medical care. The film ends with the American rescue workers receiving thanks from Cuban firefighters who pay their respects as bretheren.
The film asks many questions, chiefly, how can the richest country on Earth treat their own people so terribly? The wost scene in the movie showed an elderly homeless woman who couldn't pay her medical bill dumped out of a taxi cab on the curb of a rescue mission, still in her hospital gown.
"SiCKO" is a difficult film to watch, but it questions why Americans still cling to a system that's not working. One of the most powerful interviews in the film was with a retired Labour member of Parliament in England, who said his country's national healthcare system came in 1948, after World War II when everybody in the country felt it was a duty to have free health care. People needed to take care of each other, he said. Such a beautiful sentiment rarely vocalized or practiced in this country.

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