And, if even one-quarter of what Moore portrays is true, it is a stinging indictment of how one of the mightiest, richest, and most privileged countries in history can go so terribly wrong with health care for its citizens.
As Moore points out at the beginning of the film, SiCKO is not primarily about those who do not have health insurance, although many of the stories that he relates involve those that do not (Heavens! Moore lies!). Moore relates the stories of people who supposedly have health insurance whose treatments are denied, whose treatments that are granted are inadequate, whose appeals are denied without proper medical diagnoses. He follows people with all types of ailments - many who do not survive their struggles with American HMOs - and those whose lives are ruined by the burden of health care costs.
In his inimitable fashion, he answers all the standard objections of publicly funded, single-payer systems by visiting Britain, France, Canada and Cuba, and painting them each as health care utopias. Living in Canada, I know that we have problems and issues with our health care system. None of Britain, France or Cuba are necessarily the ideal places to live as Moore glibly portrays (although France does sound pretty sweet. Say a villa somewhere in Provence...)
But, when it comes to health care, the system that was originally cooked up between Richard Nixon and Edgar Kaiser (as in Kaiser Permanente) has been a colossal failure, at least when it comes to the health needs of the populace. For private enterprise, it has worked remarkably well. As Nixon counsel, John Erlichman explains to the then-President,
Edgar Kaiser is running this Permanente deal for profit. And the reason he can do it ... is all the incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care they give 'em, the more money they make. ... The incentives run the right way.
Nixon: Not bad.
The next day, Nixon announces the establishment of HMOs, saying, "I want America to have the finest health care in the world. And I want every American to have that care when he needs it."
Moore's SiCKO strongly suggests that Nixon's espoused goals for the health care of his fellow citizens have fallen somewhat short (to say the least) in the intervening years. It is a call for a clear, non-partisan conversation about the realities of health care in America. And, for those of us fortunate enough to live in a country with universal health care, it is a warning for those policy makers and politicians who take their guidance from south of the border.
Go see SiCKO with someone who is on the opposite side of the health care debate from you. And then, go have a conversation.
[Technorati tags: michael moore | sicko | health care | hmo]