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Sicko

August 5, 2007

As you may know, I have a rather ambivalent reaction to many of Michael Moore’s films even though I largely agree with his politics. He’s a liberal, I’m a liberal; he says we were sold a bill of goods on the Iraq war, I say he’s definitely right; he says we need tax-funded, government-provided health insurance for every citizen, and I agree.

What I tend not to like about Moore is that he always overreaches. In Bowling for Columbine, he rather unfairly sandbags a doddering old Charlton Heston in his own home, in Fahrenheit 9/11 he insinuates that president Bush has some sort of dirty deal going with the House of Saud, and in his latest movie, Sicko, he does the Cuba thing.

Most of Sicko is an expose of the private insurance system. There are Nixon’s rather shocking taped conversations about it, there are tell-alls from insurance industry insiders, and there are of course horror stories from people victimized by the system. But then, as always, Moore overreaches. He has to take 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba to receive medical care for free because they can’t seem to get what they need here in America. While I don’t doubt the veracity of what we’re being shown on screen, there’s a worrisome undercurrent to what Moore is telling us. He seems to be saying that Cuba has better medical care than we do. I doubt this very much. And it makes me wonder whether what Cuba does have isn’t provided ut by the support of other governments and not by their own economic output at all. Moore takes us here for sheer theatrical value, but all things considered I doubt we should hold Cuba up as any kind of American ideal.

The most intriguing part of the film, however is when Moore takes us to Europe. It’s not as shocking as taking 9/11 rescue workers to gitmo to receive “the same care that the evil-doers are getting,” but it is the kind of comparison that can be useful. When we talk to people in a British NHS hospital who, when asked what they owe for their services, chuckle that “this isn’t America,” you can feel the stirrings of something big. When we are shown the degree of medical (and other) services that the French have, it leaves you gasping at our own backwardness.

Even I, who often talk about these systems and compare them to our own, was dumbfounded. This I think is the most powerful part of Sicko: really seeing and hearing the people who live with these superior systems – because it inevitably leads us to ask why we aren’t doing likewise.

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  1. The most intriguing part of the film, however is when Moore takes us to Europe. It’s not as shocking as taking 9/11 rescue workers to gitmo to receive “the same care that the evil-doers are getting,” but it is the kind of comparison that can be useful. When we talk to people in a British NHS hospital who, when asked what they owe for their services, chuckle that “this isn’t America,” you can feel the stirrings of something big. When we are shown the degree of medical (and other) services that the French have, it leaves you gasping at our own backwardness.

    This part of the movie, to me, was the most intriguing. The most successful, nationalized health care systems are all similar in size (both in geographic mass and population) to a STATE in the United States.

    I could not agree more. We need a state health care system similar to the UK or France….but at a state level and definitely not at a national level. The only other two countries that come close to the US in terms of both geographic mass and population are the former Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China. I think if we were to have a national health care system we would fall to their levels (aka, not good).


  2. Perhaps we could do like Canada and let much of the work fall to the various provinces?


  3. Moore did publicly admit that he cherry-picked the absolute best-case scenarios of the UK and France, and absolute worst-case scenarios of the U.S. to make his point.

    Either side can demagogue this ’til their dying day with sob stories and success stories. For every one of Moore’s happy tales about free care in UK and France, you can find video of people testifying to quite a contrary experience. And for every rosy “My insurance coverage is great and I get all the care I want” story from the U.S., you can find someone testifying to quite a contrary experience.

    The fact is that most people in the U.S. actually do have insurance coverage. And I believe that “most” of them generally do fine by it. Combine that, with a general distaste for the way government has run other mass-service bureaucracies (DMV, Post Office, mass-transit, etc.) and people just won’t clamor for the kind of wide-sweeping change that Moore would like to see here. At least not until things get bad enough for a greater percentage of people.

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain why I or anyone else should be forced to pay for someone else’s medical care….


  4. For every one of Moore’s happy tales about free care in UK and France, you can find video of people testifying to quite a contrary experience. And for every rosy “My insurance coverage is great and I get all the care I want” story from the U.S., you can find someone testifying to quite a contrary experience.

    Be that as it may, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one system isn’t better than another. Just because there is posturing on both sides of the argument doesn’t mean that one side isn’t right. I maintain that my side – Moore’s side – is in fact right.

    most people in the U.S. actually do have insurance coverage. And I believe that “most” of them generally do fine by it.

    I don’t agree at all. I believe – although I do not have hard data on it – that a lot of people find themselves facing inexplicable claims denials once they actually need their insurer to pay something significant. And even for the rest of us, we’re all still paying way more than we can afford, literally double what others are paying. That’s not “fine.”

    When one in six Americans has no insurance, and many of the rest of us find ourselves high and dry even with insurance, and our economy is being crushed under the cost of it all… I think things are near the end for our current system. All one has to do is look abroad and notice that they don’t seem to have the severity of problems that we do to know where we need to go.

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain why I or anyone else should be forced to pay for someone else’s medical care

    1. It’s inhumane and unbefitting the wealthiest nation on earth to allow any of its citizens to go without insurance against medical disaster – no matter what their means and circumstances.

    2. Once you decide to give people who cannot pay any level of service at all (emergency, life-threatening, etc.) then you’re already paying more than you would have had you just given them basic insurance for preventative and regular care.


  5. It’s inhumane and unbefitting the wealthiest nation on earth to allow any of its citizens to go without insurance against medical disaster

    Again… why? What makes that “inhumane”? Why should I be forced to pay for it?

    Also, interesting that you describe us as the “wealthiest nation on earth” right after claiming our economy is being “crushed” by high medical costs. Do you really wish to compare the standards of living and employment rates of the U.S. and the countries that have nationalized health systems? Seems like both areas are doing OK to me. Our economy is doing fine. We have a lower unemployment rate than France and the UK. Am I missing something?

    Once you decide to give people who cannot pay any level of service at all (emergency, life-threatening, etc.) then you’re already paying more than you would have had you just given them basic insurance for preventative and regular care.

    You kind of lost me on that one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re suggesting that since ER’s and hospitals will still treat the uninsured that I’m ultimately paying for it anyway? Through the costs passed on to those (the insured) who are paying?

    Well, that’s true. But remember my original question: Why should I be forced to pay for someone else’s health care. I can opt out of subsidizing the free health care of the uninsured anytime I want by simply dumping my insurance and utilizing less medical services. And I’ve actually done that in the past. Was a time when I needed the extra cash. I was in my 20’s, relatively healthy, and decided to risk it for a while with no insurance. Then I wasn’t subsidizing anyone; and had the extra money I needed at the time.


  6. I agree with David, I don’t want to pay for my neighbor’s health care, just mine. Like wise, I do not want to be FORCED to pay for someone else’s health care. The proposed Wisconsin state health care plan would force businesses top pay an additional 10%-15% health care tax and drive even more businesses out of this state. I also realize that I am indirectly paying for someone else’s health care through the high hospital rates which cover the Medicare short falls and the indigent.


  7. I agree with David, I don’t want to pay for my neighbor’s health care, just mine.

    Then you don’t want insurance of any kind. Sharing the risk is, after all, what insurance is all about.

    The proposed Wisconsin state health care plan would force businesses top pay an additional 10%-15% health care tax

    What percent are they currently paying for their share of health insurance for their employees?


  8. Then you don’t want insurance of any kind. Sharing the risk is, after all, what insurance is all about.

    A choice. That’s all I’m asking for.


  9. Nothing wrong with being pro-choice, right?


  10. “What percent are they currently paying for their share of health insurance for their employees?”

    The answer is zero – many small companies have dropped their group health care plans due to the double digit increases each year over the last 5 to 7 years. It was cheaper for the employees to obtain personal health insurance rather than pay their share of the group plan rate (very few companies pick up 100% of the premiums unless your a teacher or in a civil service job). An additional 10 to 15 % tax would drive many small businesses into the red considering their after tax profit margins are also 10 to 15% in a good year. Then the people in Madison wonder why more businesses are leaving the state.

    As far as national health care, again, David made the point very clearly – “A choice. That’s all I’m asking for.”


  11. Scott knows that Moore is dishonest, but they’re both liberal so it’s ok.


  12. If Scott thought Moore’s overreaches were “okay” he wouldn’t be laboriously pointing them out on his blog.

    But that doesn’t mean Moore is wrong when he calls for tax-funded health insurance for every American citizen.


  13. There is a point about Cuba that i dont see anywere and is very important, my girlfriend is cuban and she told me the medical services she had there were perfect they always threat you fast and efficiently basically she told me is flawless….however…..

    A doctor in cuba gains $12.00/hour (aproximate) i can get more than that as a waiter, and the doctors are doctors because the government says how many doctors are needed and who will be and you HAVE TO do it and keep a good GPA while you are studying and as we all know the money they get for the services is mostly from a “slave” country taxes.

    By the way Puerto Rico did had a system like that about 10 years ago and its still up is a “medical plan” that comes from the government with zero deductibe that always preaproves everything and you never have to pay anything at all is called “Plan de la reforma” and guess what? it almost left our country on bankrupsy and now lots of medics dont want to accept it anymore because they dont have funds to pay the doctors and here doctors have the right to accept or deny a medical plan.

    Hope you guys had understood me cuz my first language is not english thx.



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