Gabriela V. Hernandez
12 November 2014
Film review of “Sicko”
Michael Moore’s last two films were based on opinions that many people vehemently opposed: that America has too many guns, and that George W. Bush is a bad president. It didn’t matter how persuasive the films might have been, because half the population disagreed with them before the opening credits even rolled. But with “Sicko,” Moore turns his attention to the American healthcare system, and his central theme is that it needs to be reformed. I think that’s common ground, don’t you? We can argue about what remedies the system needs, and the best way to go about it, and plenty of people will think Moore is off-base for suggesting socialized medicine. But Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, don’t we all agree that the current system is wrong? Let’s use that as the starting point and let the discussion evolve from there. There are 50 million Americans who have no health coverage at all and “Sicko” is not about them. “Sicko,” Moore says, is about the other 250 million Americans, the ones who have health insurance yet STILL get a raw deal. This movie is about how American health insurance companies exploit every means possible to avoid actually paying for their customer’s medical needs, and how people sometimes die because of it. The “lucky” ones live, and are stuck with astronomical medical bills, you know, the bills that were supposed to be taken care of by the insurance company.
This topic is fraught with anger and emotion, and someone needs to stick it to the ruthless corporations that deny funding for life-saving operations due to loopholes and technicalities, or that tell a man they can either sew one of his severed fingers back on for $60,000, or the other finger for $12,000. When an insurance company refuses to pay for a woman’s ambulance ride because it wasn’t pre-approved, even though the woman was unconscious at the time and couldn’t call for approval. That’s the kind of outrageous profiteering that needs to be dealt with. Too bad, then, that Moore is only getting excessively casual in the way he presents his arguments. Having been chided in the past for getting his facts wrong, this time he just doesn’t present very many, at least not in the way of statistics. He relies mostly on anecdotal evidence, which is a great way to convince people who already agree with you, but not very compelling to skeptics. The first half of the film details the despicable way health insurance providers weasel out of paying claims, and how requests for treatment are denied for whimsical, capricious reasons. (One woman was denied an operation to remove her brain tumor because the insurance company said it was “non-life threatening.” Then she died.) Moore put out a call for Americans to tell their healthcare horror stories, and he shows us enough of them to convince us (if we needed convincing) that the healthcare industry is a maze of blinding bureaucracy and callous indifference. So what’s to be done? Moore takes us to several foreign countries that have universal health care, where citizens (and even visitors!) get everything for free or almost-free, paid for by the government. The hope is that we will see the merits of these systems and create something similar for ourselves. And they certainly do seem appealing. Moore regales us with eye-opening factlets. In England, not only is your hospital stay free, but they’ll even reimburse you if you had to take a bus to get there! In France, doctors make house calls! In Cuba, prescriptions cost a nickel! In Canada, everyone has their own personal doctor assigned to live in their house, and the average citizen lives to be 150! OK, I exaggerate. Moore is enamored of these foreign systems, and he presents them in a very positive light. He is aware of the...
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