A Film Review by Reginald W
Review Date: 6/29/2007
Michael Moore’s latest documentary on the American Health Care system is both brutal and absurd. Brutal in what it shows the viewer and absurd in how bad the American Health Care system is when reflected against other countries’ medical care systems. Moore starts out his documentary with a few intimate tales of people and their hellish dealings with Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). The movie soon goes broad, showing you the birth of the current health care system on February 17, 1971 at 5:23 p.m. involving President Richard Nixon, his counsel and assistant John Ehrlichman and a report from Ehrlichman about his meeting with Henry J. Kaiser of Kaiser Permanente. The recording shows that Nixon liked the idea that Kaiser’s proposed system would profit off of HMOs offering less care to patients. Moore plays the recording of the Nixon meeting so that you can hear it for yourself. Its unbelievable how an administration elected by the people, for the people clearly understood how eschewed Kaiser’s proposed health care system was before implementation and still went ahead with it.
In Sicko, Moore actually gets the dead to speak. People that you think are living with a disease or aliment one minute you find out have died the next because of denials by HMOs. It’s really emotional stuff and like Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore pulls no punches. Keep in mind though that Sicko is not an unbiased film. During a graduate school class, I was shown a PBS show centered on Health Care and HMOs. It was very informative and showed the indulgence of physicians in the 80’s and how the introduction of HMOs curtailed excessive spending on their and the hospitals’ part. It also showed that by addressing one problem another major one was created in HMOs and how they make more and more money by denying more and more care to their clients. Moore brings up the latter in his film but completely ignores the former. If he had included this aspect of the health care story in Sicko, his film would have been more well rounded, informative and less biased against Health Maintenance Organizations.
Moore has an agenda with this film, a blatant one, shown in quick segment fashion during the opening credits of Sicko. That agenda is change. By showing HMOs in the worst possible light, he hopes to ignite a public out cry for change in the current Health Care system. Moore’s political champion in that regard is showcased in the same delicate and subtle way as the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital sequence in Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. That person is a she and may very well be the first elected female President in United States history, Hilary Clinton. Moore knows this as surely as he knew how releasing Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004 might affect the Presidential election that year. He wants to remind Hilary and the American people of Hilary’s formerly ardent stance on Health Care for everyone in America. Moore aims to seduce and shame Hilary at the same time in Sicko. The seduction involves a montage where he refers to Hilary Clinton as “little lady” and “sexy”, culminating in clips of her campaigning for Universal Health Care while the shame aspect is multi-faceted and includes: Clinton’s Health Care bill being defeated, her political silence on Universal Health Care afterward and how she eventually became the second highest recipient of donations from HMO lobbyists in the Senate.
Like in Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, we are shown the Shangri-La-like realm (medical-wise) of Canada but this time around we are also shown its health care brethren in the European countries of London, France and in America’s mortal enemy, Cuba. If James Hilton was still alive to see Sicko, Lost Horizon may have been a very different reading experience. I won’t go into the abundance of Health Care advantages Europeans enjoy. It’s unbelievable. Moore can’t believe it. At one point in Sicko; he asks a French woman in an apartment: “Uh, what’re you doing?” and the woman replies “I am laundering the clothing the mother left me.” Why this “person” is washing cloths for someone else is something I’ll leave for the movie to explain. I will say this; new mothers have it extremely good in Europe and are looked after as if they were family members. One thing all of this brings to mind is that if you are a pregnant woman, have your child in a European country or Canada so that if they ever get sick or are in need of serious medical attention, they are a citizen of that country and will be able to go back and have access to that health care system whenever it is necessary. Another participant in Sicko did just that. She visited London, decided to stay and had three children there (under Britain’s National Health Service, NHS). If she came back to live in America, she would have to get medical coverage for all of her children and pay monthly premiums like every other responsible mother in our country. If any of them ever became seriously ill however, she has the option of simply putting them on a plane to England for free care.
Michael Moore’s Sicko is not as gripping or as polarizing as his last two films but is a highly entertaining documentary that brings to the public forum a timely and much needed discussion of the United States Health Care system or lack therefore of. This film addresses the status quo, political back rubbing in Washington and how money, power and political influence can subjugated and thwart a social service the most powerful nation in the world should want for all of its citizens.