Michael Moore’s Sicko

Last night I went to Michael Moore’s lastest documentary, Sicko! which takes aim at healthcare and the insurance business in the US. Like all his movies he uses humor to make his point with ironic pairings of music and images and his folksy interview style. It’s clear that Moore thinks the US should overhaul it’s healthcare system so that all people are covered, and covered better. I agree.

While begins with a few cases involving people who weren’t insured and who had disasterous health problems, most of the movie deals with the problems faced by people who have some insurance. The majority of the cases seemed to be people who obtained their own policies. Companies would do almost everything to deny them coverage. It was heartbreaking.

He also presents people who work or worked for insurance companies who described how the companies encouraged denials and rewarded anyone who helped them make money. It was heartbreaking. One shortcoming was a scene when a medical director testified in the early ’90s against her employer who rewarded her for denying claims. A more recent case would have been more powerful and convincing.

The best part of the film was how Moore addressed people’s fears about a national health care system. He went to Canada, Britain, France and Cuba (he can’t resist irony of that sort) and asked people about their experiences. Again and again, they assured him that they did not have to wait forever and that they could choose their doctors. Their taxes were higher but this didn’t mean middle class people lived lives of deprivation.

It’s a good movie to spark discussion. I don’t know why Americans are so content with the current system. I’ve always had good doctors, whom I like, but I do know people who are trapped in jobs because they have pre-existing conditions like diabetes. A friend was fired on trumped up charges from Mark Shale in the late ’80s because she had MS and it was costing the company too much. She had no options. No one wanted to hire her. She got some special coverage through the state of Illinois. She later moved South and I’m not sure how she dealt with her employment and insurance problems.

Whether we model a new system after another country (Japan has national care and the taxes are very low, but you do pay something for medicine and treatment) or find something new, I hope we do something. I wish people would start caring and discussing this more. It’s a complicated problem and there are so many stakeholders and special interests, but the US should be able to meet the needs of its citizens better.