Sicko bears watching with an un-jaundiced eye; that is if you value your health!
We The People think very highly of ourselves. And why not; from a very early age Americans are told that they are number one; that we live in the greatest country on earth. America has the strongest military (that much is true up to a point), the best primary education system (not true), the best economic system (despite that fact that it keeps failing us), the best government (highly dysfunctional at the moment), and the the health care system (so not true).
That fact is by many objective measurements the United States is no longer number one and while most Americans refuse to acknowledge that fact, the rest of the world is catching on! We have been coasting on past achievements for quite some time; the evidence is quite clear, and yet most Americans still drink the nationalist Kool-Aid labeled “we’re number one.”
Facts are facts, and here is a sobering one: our national health care system is a national disgrace and is failing us. It is not the best in the world; in fact it is fast becoming one of the worst. By so many (health) scales Americans are falling behind; we have the worse infant mortality rate of any western industrialized nation—and some third world countries as well—with 6.9 deaths per 1000 births according a 2009 CDC study. That puts us behind (according to the CIA Fact Book) countries like Cuba (5.72 per 1000 births), Canada (4.99 per 1000 births), United Kingdom (4.78 per 1000 births), France (3.31 per 1000 births), and Singapore (2.32 per 1000 births). Telling isn’t it that all of these nations have national health care?
Close to 50 million of our fellow citizens are uninsured, which means they cannot afford to get sick. And even those of us that have health care insurance are at the mercy of our health care insurance companies and playing Russian roulette with our lives and those of our family members. The U.S.—according to the CIA Fact Book—currently ranks number 49 in life expectancy behind every other industrialized nation and Israel!
Into this breach, this national and international disgrace, this maddening debacle steps Michael Moore and his seminal 2007 documentary Sicko wherein Mr. Moore takes just a slice of the American health care system and dares to compare it with other nations. Throughout Sicko Moore, in his own determined style, tells the stories of real Americans who have been failed by our (very) broken health care system, but he only scratches the surface of the boil.
In Sicko Mr. Moore does not speak in-depth to the uninsured, but tackles instead the insured, those of us who have health insurance coverage, but may soon learn that it is not enough, or that we got sick in the wrong place, or used the wrong Emergency Care service, or were taken to the wrong hospital when our child is sick…The list of strange but true tales in Sicko are at once heart-breaking, sad, maddening, frustrating and tragic. How could this happen in America to Americans?
It can happen because the American (for profit) Health Care System, despite Republican Party platform dogma, and Tea-Party & Sarah Palin Death Panel claims, is broken! While most Americans are worried that under a National Health Care System the government will interfere in doctors decisions; nameless, faceless, heartless insurance company functionaries are already doing so!
In Sicko, Mr. Moore dares to compare our for-profit health care system with the much-maligned (by the political right, and other who advance the cause of profits and states right above human life) not-for-profit Universal Health Systems of Canada, France, The United Kingdom, and brace yourself, Cuba. In each case he sets about debunking some of the commonly held—in the United States anyway—myths about these highly functional and highly successful health care systems. What he found will not be surprising to anyone paying attention; and that is citizens of those four nations enjoy free health care and nearly free pharmaceuticals delivered in a humane and timely manner.
Mr. Moore also debunks the commonly held American myth that higher taxes means a lower standard of living, interviewing a French couple whose standard of living is every bit as good as an American middle-class citizen, and I dare say better, because they were guaranteed at least five weeks of paid vacation time and had traveled the world with their children. Despite their high tax rate, the couple showed off an apartment that would be on-par with any in the United States.
In Canada, Mr. Moore introduces us to Tommy Douglas (no doubt you’ve never heard of him, I knows I hadn’t until watching Sicko), who in 2004 was voted the greatest Canadian for his contributions to the Canadian health system. Moore also interviews a micro surgeon and people waiting in the emergency room of a Canadian public hospital, none of which express the slightest misgiving about their free and much-prized health care system.
Also in Canada Sicko introduces us to a young American single mother who cannot afford health care insurance in the United States for her “pre-existing condition,” so she is force to drive over the border to Canada in hopes of finding the care she needs and deserves as a human being.
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, a country with a comprehensive publicly funded health care system called the National Health Service (NHS) that was started right after WWII, Mr. Moore interviews patients—including an American expatriot—and inquires about in-hospital expenses incurred by patients. What he learns is that there are no out-of-pocket expenses for patients for any medical condition. Mr. Moore then visits a typical British pharmacy, wherein he learns that pharmaceuticals are free of charge for persons under 16 or over 60, and in most cases they are subsidized for everyone else; indeed only a co-pay of £7.50 (approximately $12) per prescription is charged.
Sicko then explores the role of the cashier in NHS hospitals only to find that their job is to reimburse low-income patients for their out-of-pocket travel costs to the hospital not collect money for their visit and or stay!
Over in France, Mr. Moore visits a hospital and interviews and a group of American expatriates who have nothing but glowing stories to tell about the French National Health Care System. At one point a young woman laments that sometimes she feels guilty because her parents have worked all their lives to get where they are and still have to struggle with health care related bills, but she gets everything free. “It’s not fair,” she says at one point and looks on the verge of tears. Another woman adds that in France “the government is afraid of the people, but in the United States the people are afraid of the government” and that is why in France people are not afraid to demand social justice.
Also in France, Mr. Moore rides along with a 24-hour French medical service that provides house calls by physicians called the "SOS Médecins." While in France Mr. Moore discovers that the French government provides many social services, such as health care, public education (including a university education) for free. He also discovers that guaranteed vacation days are degreed by law; and that day care for $1 an hour and neonatal support that includes cooking, cleaning, and laundry services for new mothers are also provided by the government.
Returning to American soil Mr. Moore conducts interviews with a series of 9/11 rescue workers who volunteered at Ground Zero after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In this segment we find that even those branded Heroes are systematically and habitually denied government funds to care for physical and psychological maladies they subsequently developed as a result of their service to the nation. These ailments included upper respiratory diseases, and PTSD.
In perhaps the most controversial segment of Sicko, Moore takes the 9/11 rescue workers, who are unable to receive and afford medical care in the U.S., to Guantanamo Bay Cuba wherein free health care is being provided for the enemy combatants detained therein. The group arrives at the entrance channel to "Gitmo" and Moore uses a megaphone to request access, pleading for the 9/11 victims to receive treatment that is on par with the medical attention the "evildoers" are receiving. Of course he does not gain entrance so the group moves on to Havana, where they receive free medical treatment by providing only their names and dates of birth, and purchase inexpensive pharmaceuticals.
At one point near the end of Sicko Moore asks: “what kind of people are we?” Indeed, it is a question I have often asked myself. What is keeping the nation from embracing national health care?
Even the casual observer can see that we—Americans—are our own worst enemy. Despite the statistics, the 60 Minutes stores about American without health care insurance having to visit free clinics, the horror stories that came out during the recent health care debates, and numerous stories done by NPR and other new outlets details the enumerable failings of the American Health Care System, and Sicko, as a society we still cling to the notion that nothing is amiss. Or if something is wrong it must be the patient’s fault. It is a combination of pure folly, political misinformation, misplaced patriotism & arrogance, self-induced ignorance & fear, and greed that keep this nation from adopting National Health Care.
Sicko is just one of many warning bells that Americans have failed to heed. Our nation, our way of life, our standard of living, are all on the decline. We as a nation lack the political and social will to tackle our problems head on (when did that happen?) and as a result this festering boil is never lanced.
We—Americans—have reached a point where we fear our government (thanks to Ronald Regan, the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, festering ignorance, and Fox News employees) more than we do private industry. And private industry has time and again proven itself less than angelic and trustworthy in American society, yet we seem to by-and-large trust the insurance companies despite all of the evidence that points to the fact they “they” place profits above human life.
What we have now, despite President Obama’s best efforts is a cobbled together system that falls way short of serving the American people and still place profits above human life. Despite the American peoples giving nature, we seem to have forgotten that old axiom the charity begins at home! How can we continue to tout American health care greatness with 50 million of our fellows are without? That my fellow Americans, is far from being the best in the world! Sicko bears watching with an un-jaundiced eye; that is if you value your health!
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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