Director: Michael Moore
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s not a single person who could deny Michael Moore’s valid inquiry into the United States’ broken health system. As a citizen whose own health insurance is not only suspect, but also incredibly costly, I’ve had my share of nightmares about leaving the hospital with a telephone book-sized bill in hand, not to mention the direct consequences of paying such a debt. In his latest documentary, “Sicko,” the usually egocentric filmmaker takes a back seat in favor of the subject at hand, and in doing so, offers an intelligent and entertaining look at the millions of everyday Americans forced to deal with the unexpected.
“Sicko” begins with the story of several middle-class Americans whose lives have been ruined simply because they don’t have health insurance (one man even sutures his own knee after a horrible accident), but as Moore is quick to point out, this movie isn’t about them. Instead, it’s about the millions of other Americans who dutifully pay their insurance premiums every year only to have health care denied when it’s actually needed. The insurance companies (like Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Cigna) throw up the red tape whenever possible (claiming medical procedures are unnecessary or experimental), and in many cases, the patient suffers because of it, leading some to bankruptcy, others to die, and some crossing borders to Canada to leech free health care.
In fact, while Moore’s documentary examines the current situation in America, he spends a majority of his time in other parts of the world highlighting their free health care programs. Moore visits his relatives in Canada to discover that while they love America, they wouldn’t dare travel there without out-of-country insurance, while trips to the UK and France uncover that their health care is not only free for their own citizens, but also for those who require care while visiting. The UK-run NSH actually reimburses patients for transportation to the hospital and offers flat rates at the pharmacy (roughly $10 for any prescription, and free for those under the age of 16 and over 60), while France has free at-home doctor visits and nanny services for new mothers.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t, despite American government naysayers who believe otherwise, claiming free health care is of a lower quality and results in a Communist society. Of course, not only are the economies of the aforementioned countries stable, but their citizens actually benefited in more ways than one, including less stressful lives, more time to spend with their families, and longer life spans. So why has America continued to stray from this seemingly beneficial option? Moore doesn’t offer any suggestions, but we all know the answer: money.
Cuba, the filmmaker’s last stop, is also perhaps his most controversial, as he’s currently under investigation for taking a group of 9/11 rescue workers (those suffering from illnesses related to the environment at Ground Zero, but have been denied medical attention in the U.S.) to the forbidden island to receive medical care. Granted, the hospital probably wouldn’t have treated the Americans had Moore and his camera crew not been right by their side, but while this might not be as good of an example for a free health care system in practice as the others were, it does raise a few questions regarding the American government’s insistence that Cuba is the root of all evil.
Though dangerously straddling the line between social reform and political rant, Michael Moore’s “Sicko” is a necessary examination of the poor health care system that plagues our country. This isn’t a matter of political party or beliefs, but rather that of implementing a system where all citizens are treated as equals. Are Moore’s methods questionable? You bet, but while he may be criticized for his one-sided arguments and ridiculous publicity stunts (he anonymously sent a $12,000 check to the webmaster of his biggest hate site when mounting medical bills forced him to shut it down), that doesn’t make the issues any less true. “Sicko” may not be Moore’s best documentary to date, but it’s most certainly his most important and entertaining one yet.
The single-disc release of Michael Moore’s latest documentary is a pretty disappointing affair. Aside from a short profile on the H.R. 676 bill (“Sicko Goes to Washington”) and an extended interview with former Parliament member Tony Benn, the rest of the extras do little to enhance the arguments of the film. “This Country Beats France” plays like a deleted scene in which Moore visits the even more well-off Norway, while “Uniquely American” and “What If You Worked for GE in France?” tell two very different health care stories. Rounding out the release is an interview gallery with new and extended interviews, while “A Different Kind of Hollywood Premiere” puts on display the crazy antics that have made Moore a household name.