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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Sicko (review)

Calling the Peasants to Revolt

I can’t imagine a more important movie being released this year. I can’t imagine another movie making me feel so ashamed for America as a whole, or doing so with more justification. Damn you, Michael Moore, and bless you, for having the temerity and the guts and the balls to do what hardly anyone else is doing these days: yelling from the rafters that we are supremely fucked up as a nation, hollering about the very viable options we have to fix the mess if only we grew some backbone, and screaming with sincere conviction that it’s long past time to revolt.
Make no mistake: Sicko is an explicit call for revolution, and it is a profound and horrifying one. I’m ready to take up arms — I’m just not sure what that means at this particular crisis point. Among the many, many shocking and disheartening hard truths laid bare here, the most difficult one to parse is the one that wonders where and how to fire an effective first shot. But Sicko is, nevertheless, deeply satisfying in its own way, as if someone, finally, pointed out the 800-pound gorilla in the room, dared to laugh at the emperor’s nakedness, at long last said, “Fuck this shit.” Not that lots of folks haven’t been saying and doing these things for a long time, but here it is in one wonderfully brazen, wonderfully eloquent package.

The thing is this: Our health-care system in American is sick. Truly, madly, deeply sick, because it is geared toward ensuring obscene profits for the corporations in the health-insurance racket and not toward ensuring that people are hale and hearty. Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11) starts off by demonstrating that it is indeed a racket, with horrific tales of the crimes of HMOs, of all sorts of people being told they are “not eligible for insurance” because — get this — they’re sick. How evil is that? That insurance companies can deny coverage to people merely because those people would cut into the corporations’ profits? (Without ever using the phrase that “conservatives” seem to think justifies any and all corporate perniciousness, Moore points out that the “free hand of the market” is usually a slap in the face to most of us ordinary schmoes.)

The testimony from former HMO employees, who quit their jobs because they were so disgusted by what they had to do to keep people from the health care they needed, is absolutely ruinous to all the filthy CEOs who have allowed their fellow Americans — their fellow human beings — to wallow in unwell misery and to die miserably over mere dollars. Is there anyone more despicable? Why, yes, there is: the politicians who enable this demented system. Some of those obscene profits, Moore shows us, go to into the pockets of members of our Congress and Senate; it’s all a matter of public record, but Moore plays it up with his usual satirical flair… and he goes hard on both sides of the political aisle, lashing out particularly at Hillary Clinton, that once-champion of universal, government-run, noncorporate health care; apparently even she can be bought. Moore isn’t afraid to call it what it is: corruption at the most powerful inner sanctums of our national “leadership.” These people do not serve us: they serve their corporate overlords. Why do we stand for this?

But Moore is just beginning: we’ve all dealt with the horror that is our health-care system, and he doesn’t need to waste a lot of time telling us what we already know. So he heads to Canada, to Britain, to France, for Christ’s sake, to show us the alternative: systems in which wellness is a priority, everyone is looked after as needed, and doctors are free to actually care for their patients instead of wondering what services they are limited in providing because of some blood-on-his-hands CEO wants a new yacht. With wit that is as devastating a takedown as any angry rant could be, Moore makes fun of the image of “socialized” medicine that has been sold to us by, yup, those corporations with their obscene profits. And in the far larger context, he shows us how the American character has faltered under our system of “health care”; the inevitable next question he leaves us to ask is, How do we find the energy for a revolution when we’ve come to such a frail and feeble state in both body and soul? That’s the depressing crux of Sicko.

I laughed till I cried, sitting through Sicko, and I don’t mean that as a metaphor — I was taken down by wracking sobs of shame and pity for we Americans by the end of the film, when Moore takes a handful of 9/11 emergency responders who cannot get the medical help they need after their selfless work in lower Manhattan to Cuba, where they are treated with such kindness by Cuban doctors in the free hospital that it is heartbreaking, and mortifying. How have we Americans let such things come to pass, that the best and bravest and most altruistic among us are treated as disposable garbage? (And how we treat our weakest and most vulnerable is even worse, Moore has no hesitation in showing us, too.) How can we live with ourselves?

And that is Moore’s question. Though he tweaks his own notoriety more than once here, he doesn’t shy from being as aggressive as necessary in asking it: How can we live with ourselves?

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for brief strong language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • SeaSpot

    I’m so happy you gave this flick a great review. I work in pharmaceutical billing on behalf of Assisted Living patients with Alzheimer’s and a variety of other ailments and every day I beat my head against a brick wall when it comes to trying to make sense of their varying “private” insurance plans and try to get them the coverage for the medications their doctors prescribe and which these most vulnerable among us trust are supposed to be covered.

    The prescription drug insurance industry is a farce in the USA. There is little relationship between drug costs to the consumer, reimbursement to the pharmacy, and the actual cost of manufacture.

    I have been looking forward to this flick ever since MM said he was going to make it and I’m thrilled that my favorite online reviewers are giving it such high recommendations. People really don’t know what’s going on. You think single payer will lead to rationing? Catch a clue America–rationing is already happening. It’s just not happening in a rational way.

  • Doa766

    I watched the movie last night and it’s great

    what’s more interesting about it for me is all that is not about health care, that old english man explaining how if you keep the people depressed they won’t protest and they will just accept whatever they get and never ask for more, and how the english would revolt to the very idea of not having what they take for granted, and it’s utopic in america

    and how clear and obvious is that politicians speak against universal health care or socialize medicine not because they have dissenting political or ideological opinions, but because they are being pay for it, it’s just sad that people believe them (and that make people responsable for the situation aswell)

    and also interesting is how people react to michael moore, of course is easy to criticise him for lots of reason, but who else is doing anything about it? who else is trying to make the least bit of diference?

    if you don’t like how he says things produce your own movie to make a world a better place

  • MaryAnn

    what’s more interesting about it for me is all that is not about health care,

    That’s absolutely right. It’s about how our problems with health care are merely a symptom of how America has gotten derailed.

  • Josh Gilchrist

    Yes, the English man gave some of the best part of the film. I also was moved by some of the stories that were told. I still don’t think the message is getting across well enough though. I think that part of the problem is that, in my opinion, an effective documentary should not seem staged. There are moments in every Moore movie that are obviously staged. Here, some of stuff taking place in France was obviously staged, such as the government woman doing the laundry for the family. Even if it is true, it loses its effect in the film because you know that Moore and his crew were there telling people what to do before they started filming.

    And MaryAnn, you mentioned in another post about this film that you did not think it was as Anti-American as I did. Yet, in your first sentence you state that no other film this year would make you ashamed for America as a whole. I have heard responses from people saying that, after seeing clips from this movie, they want to move to Canada or France. Go ahead and do that. You will encounter a whole new set of problems. Utopia does not exist. For this film to have been successful it should have concentrated on the American system and how it can be changed. Instead, Moore spends probably 75% of the film explaining how other countries have it better than we do

  • MaryAnn

    So, if I’m ashamed of the mess my country has become, and I would like it to be better, that makes me anti-American?

  • Josh Gilchrist

    Well, I guess disgust and shame are very strong words for me. Is this country fucked up in some ways? Yes. Do I still believe it’s the best country in the world? Yes. Just one more question MaryAnn, although I know this will start another firestorm of comments that will go on forever. And I don’t want to put anyone down, I am just interested in your response to the following question…

    Were you ashamed of this country before January of 2001?

    Myself, I can’t say I am any more or less concerned now than I was before Bush took office. It’s just that many people blame all of the countries problems on the current administration.

  • Vergil

    It’s all robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • Will

    Look. People do blame all the countries problems on the current administration, but (like this film proves) the problems have been in our government for quite some time now.

    Personally, corruption is going to run completely rampant in an age where companies can give money (among other things) to the members of the highest levels of goverment in order to influence their decisions. How is this legal? Why hasn’t anybody tried to stop this? This is key, in my opinion.

    Recently, Sallie Mae (and other financial aid companies) have come under fire for “paying off” college financial aid counselors, with trips to exotic places and money, all so that they will sell their high interest private loans to students. Now, these companies have lots of lawsuits to deal with as a result of the suffering that they cause to these college students.

    Why did I bring this up? Well, if it’s not okay for Financial Aid companies to pay off their customers (they pay off members of Congress too, by the way), then why the hell is it okay for ANYONE to pay off members of Congress! These are the people that make our laws! It’s a no brainer that things are very fucked up in this country right now.

    I just applaud the fact that there are people out there that are trying to stimulate peoples minds and get the message out there like Michael Moore. We need more of this stuff, and it’s great that Moore has the reach that he does to be able to release his movies across the Nation. At the very least, it gets people like me and you talking about very important issues.

  • MaryAnn

    Were you ashamed of this country before January of 2001?

    About some things, sure. And now there’s a ton more stuff to be ashamed about.

    Myself, I can’t say I am any more or less concerned now than I was before Bush took office. It’s just that many people blame all of the countries problems on the current administration.

    Where did I do that?

  • Vergil

    I’m certainly no bleeding heart, but I’m less concerned about Bush being in office than I am the fact that Bush was VOTED into office the SECOND TIME. After we already knew that he was going to listen to Rummy et al instead of Powell. I guess I should say something about the movie. Shame on people for letting Moore manipulate them, whether healthcare has a problem (it does) or not. That is no excuse for continuing to let this guy keep doing this.

  • Josh

    Why a ton more things to be ashamed of MaryAnn? I have to say there was a shitload of stuff that I was displeased with 10 years ago, and about the same amount now. What really got me 10 years ago was the facade that was presented that we were a nation at peace. Now, there’s too much concentration on the fact that we are not at peace and little being done to correct things. I think Will explained things better than Moore did in his film.

    Vergil- It’s true that Moore puts out propaganda. Any documentary, or anything with a message, can be described as propaganda. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not Moore’s current problem. He should be focusing on bringing out change instead of making these films with little substance. The world would be a lot better if the Michael Moore’s and Ann Coulter’s of the world actually used their power for something constructive. Moore can make constructive cinema. He has certainly done so in the past. He just needs to step off his high horse now and stop believing that it’s his opinion that matters most. It’s the countries opinion and well-being that matters most.

  • Josh

    MaryAnn, apologies if you thought I was pointing you out for saying all of our problems are because of the current administration. Many others do think that way though. Too many people contribute whats good or bad in this country to the current president, administration. In the 90’s, we had a good economy and it was told to us it was solely because of Clinton. BS. Not only do economic policies take years to show signs of progress, Clinton did not do much at all to improve the economy.

    One thing I will give Moore credit for with Sicko is that, unlike 9/11, he does not ignore facts so much that he places all of the blame on Bush. He also puts it to the Clinton’s here, and Nixon. He could have made a whole film about the mistakes of different administrations. With 9/11, it was almost laughable how he was trying so hard not to include anything that would make the Clinton’s look bad.

  • Christie

    I work with refugees and see firsthand some very funny (and not the ha-ha kind) dealings going on with the healthcare system. It’s time for a change. I hope people know we can make it happen.

    Thanks for the review; I can’t wait to see it.

  • Tigger Nitties

    Folks, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Moore has zero, and I mean ZERO credibility. He was caught in lie after lie, manipulated families in Columbine for his purposes, and was sued by people he lied about. Please understand that you “people” who liked this movie are simply fools. He may have had some good points, but don’t you care if he arrived at them honestly? Stop whining and go to Cuba if you hate here so much.

  • MaryAnn

    Why a ton more things to be ashamed of MaryAnn?

    How about the millions and millions of people who voted to *reelect* Bush when it was already clear what an incompetent boob he is?

    [Moore] should be focusing on bringing out change instead of making these films with little substance. … He just needs to step off his high horse now and stop believing that it’s his opinion that matters most. It’s the countries opinion and well-being that matters most.

    *bangs head on desk*

    The first step in bringing about change in convincing people that change is possible, and that there are alternatives to the current mess. Moore and *Sicko* are not about Moore thinking his opinion matters most — it’s about him trying to change the nation’s opinion, which, as you say, needs changing. Didja miss the whole bit in my review where I say Moore is calling for revolution? When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, do you think he knew how the revolution he was calling for would shape up? That it would even succeed? Jefferson didn’t include the U.S. Constitution in the Declaration… would you have criticized him for not doing so?

    (I’m not comparing Moore to Jefferson, by the way, just making an analogy about how changing minds is the *beginning* of change, not the end. Hell, it’s not even the middle…)

  • MaryAnn

    Stop whining and go to Cuba if you hate here so much.

    I really do wonder about people who are so terrified of dissent that they only response they can muster is this kind of nonsense. It’s clear these supposed “patriots” don’t have the first idea what is so important and so unique about the United States of America.

  • Tigger Nitties

    Oh, I’m not the least bit terrified of dissent – didn’t mean to confuse you. I was being a bit over the top. As to not knowing what’s great about America – it’s freedom. Not a communized, socialized society. Your vague reference to to me being unamerican is not effective or constructive.

    What is great about America to you? Having the government control every aspect of our lives? Please, elucidate…

  • Tigger Nitties

    Also worth noting is that you didn’t address ANY of my points about Moore’s credibility. Pretty pathetic.

  • william shakespear

    I have not yet seen this movie, but I agree
    with your larger themes. This wealthy and heroic nation’s being consumed by a metastatic cancer (fueled by greed and racism?) where caring for others is often sneered at, spit upon and given pejoritive labels…So where do these trends eventually lead? My guess is that in folding into the mix other powerfully destructive global cross-currents the worlds population will be taken down
    by more than half as the worlds billionaires and some select others retreat into bubble fortresses while those outside are left to slug-it-out. If there is a revolution, it may be to determine who gets in the bubbles.

  • Moe

    Don’t bother arguing with Tigger, MaryAnne.
    Some parts of American have long since made up their minds about Moore.

    His next flick could be about how cute puppies are and conservatives will think he’s attacking the U.S.

  • Doa766

    another thing about michael moore that seems imposible to understand for some people:

    a false friend will always tell that you’re doing great, that everything’s fine and you should keep it up

    but a real friend will tell you the things you’re doing wrong even if you don’t want to hear it, he won’t lie to you and he will try to make you change for the better and that’t because he CARES

    michael moore cares about his country, so goes out of his way to point out what’s wrong with it so it can be corrected before it’s too late (if it’s not too late already)

    but I guess that’s too complicated and contradictory for some people

    I’m not an american but michael moore is the only american I know about that I would call a patriot

  • SeaSpot

    Cry havoc, and release the dogs of Freeper war.

    You may regret your decision to go to blog format before this thing dies down.

    Anyhow, I’ll see it this week–thanks again for the intriguing review.

  • MaryAnn

    Not a communized, socialized society.

    So then you’re for privating the police, courts, schools, and all our other “socialized” public services, are you, Tigger?

    Perhaps Moore has zero credibility with you, Tigger, but he doesn’t for lots of people. And the cool thing about what Moore is telling us in his films, including this one, is that you don’t have to take his word on the facts he presents — you can independently verify them yourself. Like how numerous organizations like World Health and such are the ones who will tell you that the U.S. has the lowest life expectantcy and highest infant mortality rates of any Westernized, industrialized nation. And yet we spend way more on “health care” than any of those other nations where people are healthier and life longer.

    For anyone who cares about the quality of life in the country, that’s something to be ashamed about.

    And I hate to burst your litigious bubble, Tigger, but anyone can sue anyone. The fact of a lawsuit does not mean anything other than someone filed a lawsuit.

  • Tigger Nitties

    Ok, how do you know that the high infant mortality (not counting abortions, I assume) are due to the lack of socialized medicine and not irresponsible doctors ,parents, hospitals, etc. Where is the causation? Does waking up in the morning cause the sun to rise, or are there other factors at work??

  • ThreeOranges

    Tigger Nitties writes:

    “Ok, how do you know that the high infant mortality (not counting abortions, I assume) are due to the lack of socialized medicine and not irresponsible doctors, parents, hospitals, etc. Where is the causation?”

    You may well be right, Tigger: America may well have a truckload of irresponsible doctors and hospitals to account for the high infant mortality rates.

    What really bothers me is that – instead of being horrified about these damning statistics in one of the supposedly richest countries in the world – you’re acting as if irresponsible doctors and hospitals are none of our concern. Seems that you’re fine with any amount of infant mortality, so long as the blame for it is not placed on the current administration.

    But maybe I misjudge you. My question is this – if irresponsible doctors, parents and hospitals are responsible for all this infant mortality, do you consider it’s society’s job to correct them, or do you think society should leave them alone?

    Should they be allowed to carry on making those fatal mistakes, just so that we can boast that this country is free from regulation?

  • william shakespear

    BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE delivered a powerful message, but we’ve never even bothered closing the gun-show
    loophole. Likewise FAHRENHEIT 911 hit hard but the
    war goes on…Also AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, has a critically important message, but unless industry itself writes the legistlation and says “Here Congress, regulate us” it’s unikely to result in
    a meaningful reversal of greenhouse gas emission.
    And now SICKO. Yes if decades ago instead of JFK’s death, single-payer universal coverage would be reality today? Another guess is that the CIA
    knew DR.STRANGELOVE’s release date [Dec.’63] and
    took action before that movie could move public
    opinions support for military desecalation…And finally, playing the “If you don’t love America, leave it” card is itself un-American. This nation was founded on the principle that reason and due process should trump force. For example the military is to be under civilian control…Tradgedy is when temptation’s too great, we all fall from grace… Comedy is EVAN ALMIGHTY-See it now!!!

  • Josh

    William,

    You are correct. It is Un-American to say that “if you don’t support America, leave it.” It totally ignores what makes this country great. I never said that those that do not love this country should leave it. What I said is that those who keep claiming it is better somewhere else, and threatening to leave, should do so instead of just talking about it. ‘Sicko’ is mostly a collection of information about how Canada, France, and Cuba are better than America. I have watched a majority of the film and very little concentrates on the US. That was my problem with the film. I expected an insightful look at our own crisis and instead got Moore’s Pro France agenda.

  • MaryAnn

    but unless industry itself writes the legistlation and says “Here Congress, regulate us”

    Perhaps we need to get industry out of our legislative bodies.

    What I said is that those who keep claiming it is better somewhere else, and threatening to leave, should do so instead of just talking about it.

    Moore does not threaten to leave. He shows us how things are better in other places, and asks us why we can’t make them better here. That is absolutely explicit in the film, Josh. But it does come in the last 16 minutes of the film, which you say you haven’t seen.

  • Josh

    Well, I know I should refrain from complete judgment until I have seen the whole film. I was just commenting on the fact that a good majority of the film I saw seemed to not concentrate on this country but elsewhere. If that was the point of the film, Moore succeeded. If the point of the film was to open up debate on our own health care system, I think he could have done a better job. You’ve seen the film in its entirety though so I trust you know more than I do

  • Peter Connolly

    I am not an American so please take these comments in this context. Healthwise, the US is looked at as the most dangerous country in the world to visit as a tourist – not because you are any more likely to get sick – but because the slightest injury could bankrupt you without hefty travel insurance.

    So, when the Clinton administration came to power with a mandate to reform healthcare we all thought, “Great! The US is finally going to get its health system back in order.” We all stood by in amazement then while spurious arguments about socialization and nationalism weren’t countered by rational debate and hard figures available from any other western country. It looked like the administration wanted this initiative to fail.

    If Moore spends a lot of time talking about foreign healthcare models it is simply to counter the boiling frog syndrome. ie: How do you know it’s hot if you don’t know what cold is? Moore would be the last person to nominate himself for sainthood. If he has over dramatized sequences in his films it shows a lack of confidence in his own ability to persuade – not a desire to deceive the public.

    Sure, nobody should be claiming they have the perfect health system. What you do see from Moore’s foreign examples, however, is a very different balance of power between patients and their healthcare system. Here in Australia we have a mix of both public and private healthcare and health insurance. Of course the insurance companies see the US as their Nirvana and lobby the government to move in that direction while patient lobby groups push heavily for the British model. As long as both groups have equal power the scandals each uncovers in their rival’s operations server to simply keep everybody honest rather than bring down the system.

    This is the heart of the matter when you put aside the figures and the politics and the social theory: who has the power? Any system, whether it’s socialized, privatized or just public will work if all the parties involved have enough power to keep the others holding to the bargain. After all, that’s why the American system worked so well for so long.

  • Scott P

    I will not give my opinion on this or any film until I see it. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

    Hey Josh, maybe you should wait to give your opinion of this film until you see ALL of it.

  • Josh

    If this the last few minutes I have not seen of the film change my opinion, I will let you all know.

  • Josh Gilchrist said, a few days ago:

    Do I still believe it’s the best country in the world? Yes.

    I always wonder about sentiments like this. What makes the United States a “better” country than any other modern democracy? How, specifically, is it better than Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and Norway? How many other countries have people who believe that the USA is the “best” country actually lived in?

  • MaryAnn

    We all stood by in amazement then while spurious arguments about socialization and nationalism weren’t countered by rational debate and hard figures available from any other western country.

    Oh, you expected reason and logic from a nation where a ridiculous percentage of the population actually believes the fairy tale of Biblical Creation?

    What you do see from Moore’s foreign examples, however, is a very different balance of power between patients and their healthcare system.

    What it really boils down to is this: Do we consider health care a basic human right? America doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge that the concept of a decent civil society in the 21st century DOES include health care as a basic right.

    This is the heart of the matter when you put aside the figures and the politics and the social theory: who has the power? Any system, whether it’s socialized, privatized or just public will work if all the parties involved have enough power to keep the others holding to the bargain. After all, that’s why the American system worked so well for so long.

    I’m not sure that’s the case with American any longer — perhaps not since the end of World War II. Corporations wield far more power than the collective public does. Until that changes, I’m not sure anything else will.

  • MaryAnn

    If this the last few minutes I have not seen of the film change my opinion, I will let you all know.

    The last few minutes will not change the fact that yes, Moore does focus a lot on how things are in nations other than the U.S. But the overall impact is not “anyone who wants better health care should go live overseas” but “if Americans want better health care, stop listening to the bullshit of politicians and lobbyists who tell you it isn’t possible and look at how it’s working in practical terms in other places that don’t, in fact, worship Karl Marx.”

    How many other countries have people who believe that the USA is the “best” country actually lived in?

    An excellent point, which Moore also makes when he points out that the vast majority of Americans don’t even have a passport and have never even left the country, never minding actually living in another country.

  • Tigger Nitties

    “If irresponsible doctors, parents and hospitals are responsible for all this infant mortality, do you consider it’s society’s job to correct them, or do you think society should leave them alone?”

    My point was that socialized medicine won’t necessarily fix their incompetence. Health care, imo, should be a resource, not a business. Kind of like air, water, radio waves, etc. Health care employees should make money, obviously, but spending should be re-routed to give more care to people who can’t pay for themselves.Insurance companies are too powerful as well.

  • tomfrog

    Hi everyone !

    I just saw Sicko and wanted to respond to this message :

    “Folks, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Moore has zero, and I mean ZERO credibility. He was caught in lie after lie, manipulated families in Columbine for his purposes, and was sued by people he lied about.”

    and this one too :

    “Here, some of stuff taking place in France was obviously staged, such as the government woman doing the laundry for the family. Even if it is true, it loses its effect in the film because you know that Moore and his crew were there telling people what to do before they started filming.”

    Well, I can only write about the part I know : the one in France : of course, all of the services that are described are true : yes, when you just had a baby, you can have someone to come to your house and help you with the laundry, the baby or whatever (well, not ‘whatever’ but you know…).
    There are some little things not entirely true : you only get 3 days after your wedding in addition of your 5 weeks of paid vacation. And you don’t actually get 5 weeks if you’ve got a part-time job : it depends on how much time you have worked in the past year. 5 weeks of paid vacation is for a 35h/week ; you get more if you work more, less if you work less.

    For the rest of it I didn’t notice any significant mistake (about the system in France I mean).

    And yes we have a lot of taxes but I have to say, when I see what health cost… OMG, I’m glad to pay some taxes (In fact I don’t pay so much taxes since I don’t earn a lot).

    Voilà, just my 2 cents ;)

    best for you all ! (and sorry, I don’t write in english very well…)

  • mtgold

    This message board is a perfect illustration of why issues in America, such as healthcare, never seem to get anywhere. Look at how quickly the discussion is distracted by irrelevant comments about things like terrorism or anti-Americanism or bush. Bicker about the flaws of Moore’s film if you will, but don’t lose sight about the heart of the matter. The best interests of a profit-driven HMO and the best interests of a patient are fundamentally opposed. It is an atrocity that a system based on providing care to people has evolved into something so inhumane. When it comes to our health & bodies, the power should not be in the hands of a third party. This conflict of interest means we have to seriously restructure our healthcare system; be it socialized or something else. The examples in Sicko of government-run healthcare in other countries to me did not necessarily promote a socialized healthcare system in America but instead pointed out there is no reasonable justification for continuing with a corrupt and insufficient institution when viable alternatives already exist. The lingering stigma created by 20th century propaganda is not an acceptable excuse to ignore the issue and maintain the status quo. Love or hate Michael Moore, agree or disagree with socialized healthcare, the problem transcends politics and our personal fondness or distaste for Moore’s work.

  • ThreeOranges

    Tigger Nitties writes:

    “My point was that socialized medicine won’t necessarily fix their incompetence. Health care, imo, should be a resource, not a business. Kind of like air, water, radio waves, etc. Health care employees should make money, obviously, but spending should be re-routed to give more care to people who can’t pay for themselves. Insurance companies are too powerful as well.”

    So it turns out that we ARE singing from the same hymnsheet! That’s what I want for America – and that’s what Michael Moore wants too!

  • Bey

    Here’s a story:

    I have a 28 year old son who can’t afford to live on his own due to health care costs. If you think it’s difficult getting physical care with substandard or no health insurance, just get involved in the mental health care arena.

    He was diagnosed in his early 20’s with a schizophrenic-like disorder and requires anti-psychotic meds to keep him moderately functional. Those meds alone cost him $300 a month. Fortunately, the state we live offers a program for ‘uninsurables’ for which he only pays $250 with a $2000 deductible.

    Last year’s reaction to his meds landed him in the ICU and he will continue to pay off his share of the costs for that through 2010. No dental coverage – that’s out of pocket; no vision coverage – that’s out of pocket. Don’t even think about therapy which he needs in conjuction with his meds as well as his every-other-monthly visit to his psychiatrist for med management ($75 co-pay).

    And he’s one of the lucky ones.

  • MaryAnn

    No dental coverage – that’s out of pocket; no vision coverage – that’s out of pocket

    I’ve never understood how dental and vision care can be considered seperate from “health care” — are not our teeth and our eyes part of our bodies?

  • zeke

    The Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum made a key point: Unfortunately, the biggest reason that someone like Moore is so important is that the news itself is so hideously derelict in its job.

    Moore is acutely aware of this, and operates as a skilled PR tactician who seeks to lure the spotlight into places where it actually belongs.

    The media’s treatment of someone like Moore is generally to hang a big condescending sign around his neck saying “politically biased”, which they rarely do with an industry representative or government official – these are always treated as
    “respectable” sources, and rarely challenged, or even asked to account for their statements.

    Why haven’t these HMO case studies been given the “scandalous” headlines instead of Paris Hilton and her courtroom antics? Basically Moore is doing the newspeople’s job for them. If they had been on this, things would never have reached this stage.

    We act “shocked” to hear such stories. The fact is, there are those who have been sounding the alarm for a long time now, but such voices are always pushed to the margins of our public discourse.

    If we find ourselves surprised by a film like this, one that briefly manages to break into the center of our attention, then perhaps we should take a hint and seek out those sources that have been covering issues like this consistently and substantively all along, and see what else they have to say.

    (Here’s a question: How many of our other vital necessities are being managed like these HMOs?)

    The center of attention is wherever we choose to make it. God forbid, is it possible that we might even take some of those hours away from the TV and devote them to a little civic participation? The country belongs to us; if we neglect it, how much can we complain when someone else steps into the vacuum to make a fast buck?

    We all make time to cultivate our personal relationships. If we expect our society to be accountable to our needs, we have to assume a similar role in relation to it. The way it is functioning now reflects the balance of who is attending to this role and who, for whatever reason, is neglecting it.

  • MaryAnn

    If we find ourselves surprised by a film like this, one that briefly manages to break into the center of our attention, then perhaps we should take a hint and seek out those sources that have been covering issues like this consistently and substantively all along, and see what else they have to say.

    Some of us are already doing that, Zeke, and have been for years. Which makes it extra gratifying to see someone like Moore getting made a big deal of for saying what others have been saying unheeded for years.

  • Ken

    ***Do we consider health care a basic human right? America doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge that the concept of a decent civil society in the 21st century DOES include health care as a basic right.***

    Bullshit. I call bullshit. Human right my ass.

    A right is not something that someone else has to provide for you, like health care, food, education, money, etc. A right is something you can do all day or all night that doesn’t put on a restriction on anyone else except to get the hell out of your way. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, speech, press, etc. Not any of that other shit.

    I want to make it clear that I’m not arguing for or against socialized medicine, just that it’s a fallacy to call it a right.

  • Oscar

    “A right is something you can do all day or all night that doesn’t put a restriction on anyone else except to get the hell out of your way. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, speech, press, etc. Not any of that other shit”

    I beg your pardon? Do you recall that in order to get these rights, many people fought and died? I suppose that wasn’t a restriction on them? Health care ISN’T a right in our country, but most logical people believe that it SHOULD be. Our country can afford to provide a universal health care system for all of its citizens with the taxes they pay. How can we call ourselves truly civilized if someone is denied the treatment they need (AND IS AVAILABLE) because of their financial limitations? Aren’t they citizens in this country, too?

  • MaryAnn

    A right is not something that someone else has to provide for you, like health care, food, education, money, etc.

    A right is what we decide it is. There are many rights we now take for granted that have not always been considered rights. Free basic education didn’t used to be a right in the United States, but now we supply that to all residents, even the children of illegal immigrants, because we recognize that it is better for *everyone* that people be educated to a certain degree. Some other countries have seen the value in ensuring that higher education is available to those who want it.

    We haven’t yet come to the same realization about health care, but we will… or, I suspect, nature will take care of it for us, one way or another. Even the most self-centered, least publicly minded person will come to realize that it simply makes sense that we ensure that everyone enjoys a basic level of good health and health care, though it may take an epidemic that doesn’t spare the rich and insured any more than it spares the poor who’ve never even seen a doctor to make it happen.

    One doesn’t need to be a bleeding heart liberal commie pinko Marxist to understand the importance of tax-supported universal health care on a planet teeming with six billion of us.

  • Ken

    Okay, is my post hard to understand or did you just fail to read it? (Oscar’s post especially is a complete no lo contedere.) All I’m arguing is semantics here. Not whether universal health care is a good idea or not. Maybe it’s a great idea. Maybe it’s a fantastic idea.

    But what it isn’t is something you have a right to. No one owes you a damn thing, least of all health care. Rights don’t put restrictions on other people, and universal health care would in fact put restrictions on other people — someone would have to provide health care for you. That’s not a right, that’s a service. Just like public education, roads, police, and all that other good shit people like to get from the government.

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with the movie or the issues it describes, it just pisses me off when say that not having health care is a violation of their rights. That’s a lie and it’s overselling the argument. (BTW: A right is only “whatever we decide it is” in the sense that toothpaste is whatever we decide it is. I mean, if we all decided rubber cement was toothpaste, by god, that’s what it would be. But it doesn’t match the current definition.)

    As for the offer at hand, I think more resistance from the public to universal health care is not so much fear of socialism as much as people aren’t willing to accept the tax hike. In the end of course, they will naturally get from the government what they paid for.

  • Ken

    Fuck, that’s not the right Latin phrase there. Way to look smart, Kenny.

  • MaryAnn

    Rights don’t put restrictions on other people, and universal health care would in fact put restrictions on other people — someone would have to provide health care for you.

    In what way would universal health care put “restrictions” on anyone in any way that’s different from the “restrictions” that universal education does?

    Yes, this is an issue of semantics, but *of course* some things that we consider “rights” DO put restrictions on other people: The fact that women and black people are allowed to vote reduces the power that wealthy landowning white men wield. Is this a bad thing?

  • Vergil

    Moore doesn’t deserve the same ‘pass’ that a, say, Oliver Stone might get for making an entertaining fiction such as the movie JFK. He always gets good reviews from critics because (besides the similar political viewpoint) his movies are indeed entertaining. But Woody Allen’s ‘Zelig’ or ‘Take the Money and Run’ are at least as entertaining, but would never be considered for a “Best Documentary” Oscar. Should the movie Armageddon be considered a documentary? After all, the threat of impact by a comet or meteor is very real and it probably had more than a little to do with getting a little extra funding to that slice of NASA’s pie. “But it’s not the same thing at all!” you argue. Just because the people in ‘Sicko’ are using their real names, doesn’t mean they aren’t acting. And just because the Hospitals and Homes are shot “on location” doesn’t mean they aren’t sets. Apparently, a movie which claimed that the war in Iraq was planned and funded by an Alien Menace and used logical fallacies, nice cinematography, and a stirring score would be a great documentary, as long as it got us out of that war. The criteria used to judge a documentary are, of course, highly subjective. But if we base this judgement purely on entertainment value or as a means to an end, then why separate them from any other movie? I personally expect more, and honestly find the praise of such Jerry Springer yellow journalism disturbing.

  • MaryAnn

    Apparently, a movie which claimed that the war in Iraq was planned and funded by an Alien Menace

    Are you seriously suggesting this is even remotely analagous to what Moore does in this film? Are you seriously suggesting that the American health care system is NOT desperately broken and NOT run for profit by corporations who have our so-called leaders in their pockets, and that there are NOT many other far better options available to us, as demonstrated by other Western countries?

    Please explain in what way *Sicko* is like your science fictional example.

  • Vergil

    I’m saying that Moore uses half-truths and illusions to demonstrate a reality which would be better served by simply stating the facts. There are plenty of examples of good documentaries around (even for television. NOVA has been doing it for decades.) to demonstrate that stating the facts doesn’t have to be overly embellished to get the point across. Shuttling people across to Cuba to have them treated there demonstrates just what exactly? It is nothing more than a publicity stunt, by Moore AND Castro. Sicko is like the science fiction example in that they are both fiction. The world Moore shows through his lens is not the world we live in. I certainly have issues with the US Healthcare system. But I would like them solved in the real world. Not in the fantasy land that he creates.

  • Vergil

    I’m sure you don’t have the time and resources to give an in-depth, multipage assessment of every documentary you watch. But luckily, Kurt Loder has done one on this movie for us.

  • Vergil

    Sorry…meant to paste this on the last post http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1563758/story.jhtml

  • zeke

    I appreciate the distinction between arguing the meaning of “right” and arguing for a particular policy.

    Nevertheless, one pointedly has to do with the other. It’s misleading to consider the definition of a right to be just a matter of “semantics”. Laws are based on “semantics”.

    Such “semantics” inform our ability to have a conversation at all.

    One thing about the notion of a “right” – once a particular right has been accepted, it seeps into one’s physiology, and its denial can provoke a visceral response that you don’t see when an issue is framed in less absolute terms.

    I think one problem we’ve had in discussing quality of life issues is that our notion of rights is largely framed in negative terms – areas where a government will not interfere.

    Sometimes the government is so hands-off in such matters that it fails to interfere even when some other party is obstructing a right.

    For example, it seems that when you enter your workplace you check your passport at the door and enter another country. An employer is often free to decide what kind of speech is valid or not. What good is freedom of speech if you cannot use it in the relationships that put food on your table? I think there are lots of passive pressures like this that restrict people’s ability to fully use their established rights, let alone call for more rights. One reason we have trouble dealing with this is that our thinking is couched in negatives – the government will NOT interfere with our speech, as opposed to saying the government WILL actively protect our speech from anyone seeking to silence it.

    It seems difficult to think of our government as an instrument to be wielded by us, and to measure its performance in terms of the existing results in our lives, rather than some vague notion of original intentions. It seems to me the difference between living in the past or present. Even original intentions can be reevaluated in light of actual outcomes. We are not here to serve our founding fathers – it’s the other way around.

    (Another example – the notion of equality of opportunity, rather than equality of result. How do you assess the existence of equality without considering results? The cumulative effect is to discourage us from evaluating the performance of our society. Nobody who actually deals with results thinks like this)

    If it’s so difficult for us to assess the results with respect to an established negative right, like free speech, then how much harder to articulate any sense of entitlement to a positive right – the RIGHT to certain services like healthcare?

    (I can hear the argument coming – if you don’t like this boat/job/country, you’re free to jump overboard and try to swim to another one)

    So I agree emphatically with MaryAnn, that a right is whatever we decide it is, and I think that rights can be just as easily positive as negative, and that healthcare constitutes a positive right, and that it is emphatically a “right” in any context that is concerned with the material reality of a society, rather than its existence on a piece of paper.

  • MaryAnn

    Shuttling people across to Cuba to have them treated there demonstrates just what exactly?

    Holy crap, are you kidding?! It demonstrates many, many things. The first of which is this: Moore did not set out to get 9/11 first responders treated by the Cuban medical system. He set out to show that the Guanatamo Bay naval base — which is American soil! — is providing universal health care to suspected terrorists. Now, the Bush administration is denying basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution to anyone on American soil — like the right to legal counsel, and the right to a speedy trial by jury, which are guaranteed to all “persons,” not all “citizens” — but it is supplying the very people it keeps telling us are evil, evil, evil with universal health care. If it can do that for the people it insists are the worst people in the world, why can’t it do that for its own citizens? Why can’t it do that for the heroes of 9/11? Bushco keeps waving the 9/11 flag, but its policies — and the policies of the U.S. government on the whole, Democrat and Republican alike, policies that are shaped by the huge bribes of insurance corp lobbyists — continue to ensure that many people, even those with insurance!, are denied basic health care.

    If you consider than on a par with science fiction, then we are living in different universes, and it seems unlikely we can find any common ground.

    Number 2 is this: How is it possible that an impoverished Third World nation can supply its citizens with basic universal health care, and the supposedly most powerful, wealthiest, and “best” country on the planet cannot?

    Too many people in the U.S. are not aware of the alternatives available to us, partly because our mainstream media, from which most people get their news and opinion, are also in the pockets of the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. (How many ads do you see on TV for drugs we’re all supposed to “ask our doctor” about?) Moore is supplying some much-needed balance to the message we typically get, which is heavily weighted in favor of the status quo. THAT’s the value in this movie.

  • Vergil

    Even if everyone were to agree the healthcare was a “right”, there would still be the matter of degree. The most liberal would say that everyone should have the same care, and the most conservative would say that only the most basic care should be paid for with taxes. So is the “right” to basic healthcare, or full coverage? This difference is not a small one. The more that healthcare is taken out of the private sector and put into the public, the more my right not to have to pay bills for people who choose to smoke or never exercise is infringed upon.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m sure you don’t have the time and resources to give an in-depth, multipage assessment of every documentary you watch. But luckily, Kurt Loder has done one on this movie for us.

    Loder is disingenuous. He misses Moore’s irony (as with his comment about Moore calling Hillary Clinton “sexy”). He fails to appreciate the very basic point Moore makes when he compares the nationalized health care systems of Canada, Britian, and France to our own: it’s not these other systems don’t have problems, it’s that there is a fundamental underlying difference between theirs and ours, the difference between “every man for himself” and “trying to do the best we can for everyone.”

    Anyone who suggests, as Loder does, that the worst that happens in Canada, Britain, and France, is anywhere near the worst that happens here in the U.S. — some of which Moore shows in the film, like homeless people being dumped on the streets by hospitals that simply don’t want to deal with them anymore — is simply being a fool. Or else he has never had to deal on a firsthand basis with the nightmare that is health care in this country. Anyone who is wealthy — as presumably Loder is — is probably able to get whatever health care he needs. So because Loder is fine, he would have us believe that we’ll ALL fine. And THAT is exactly the me-first selfishness Moore is trying to combat.

    So fuck Kurt Loder. Rich people are always going to be able to pay for whatever health care they need, no matter what country they’re in. It’s how ordinary working people do under these systems that we should be concerned about. No one goes bankrupt in Canada or Britain or France because they had a heart attack or developed cancer. We should be ashamed that bankruptcy is not at all out of the ordinary for people who get sick here, even people who have health insurance. It’s disgraceful.

  • Vergil

    You didn’t answer the question. What did it demonstrate? You yourself describe it as an attack on the administration, nothing to do with the healthcare system. Suspected terrorists have what to do with the system? It is typical of Moore (and those that would sway by emotion, rather than reason) to give anecdotes as evidence. But in this case, the anecdote doesn’t even have anything to do with the case in question. Why did Cuba treat the workers? Because of their fabulous system? If so, then let’s all start rowing over! No, it was simply a publicity stunt. The answer to number 2 is a two parter. Number one, they simply rob peter to pay paul. They give up other things to have it. Number two, they accept a poor definition of “universal care”.

  • MaryAnn

    The more that healthcare is taken out of the private sector and put into the public, the more my right not to have to pay bills for people who choose to smoke or never exercise is infringed upon.

    Have ya seen the movie, Vergil? Aside from all the issues you’re dancing around — like the fact that we all pay for the universal education our youngsters receive, even if we don’t have kids ourselves, because it’s good for us all in the long run — it is possible to build into the system incentives toward preventative health care and ensuring that people stop smoking and exercise more and get down from morbidly obese to merely fat.

    And aside from all that, do you realize what we pay per capita for health care? It’s WAY more than other Western nations do, and for a far less satisfactory result. So it’s entirely likely that under a nationalized system, you’d pay FAR less than you do now for health care, even if you were also paying for the fact that some people smoke.

  • MaryAnn

    You didn’t answer the question.

    I most certainly did.

    Why did Cuba treat the workers? Because of their fabulous system? If so, then let’s all start rowing over! No, it was simply a publicity stunt.

    Please offer some evidence for this contention.

  • MaryAnn

    More on Loder. From his review:

    As a proud socialist, the director appears to feel that there are few problems in life that can’t be solved by government regulation (that would be the same government that’s already given us the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Motor Vehicles)

    Hell yes! We should hope for a nationalized health care system as good as the U.S. postal service, which has the lowest rates and arguably the best service of any in the industrialized world:

    http://www.japanpost.jp/top/disclosure/e2003/yubin/3/5.html
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/woe/archives/postal.htm

    Anyone who holds up the US postal system — which is entirely self-sufficient and does NOT rely on tax revenue AT ALL — as an example of inefficiency of the American federal governement is doing nothing but showing himself up as completely uninformed.

  • Ken

    [quote]In what way would universal health care put “restrictions” on anyone in any way that’s different from the “restrictions” that universal education does?[/quote]

    As I thought I made clear, I don’t consider education a right either. I found this great quote since I posted last: “There is only one human right, the right to do as you damn well please.” The only restriction put on other people by you exercising your rights is that they not stop you from doing it, and vice versa. Universal health care may be a great idea — hell, the more I hear about it, the more I like it. But it’s not something that people are owed just for existing.

    Health care is not a right because it requires someone to give it to you. Governments are there to protect your rights, but when the government is not around, that does not mean your rights disappear. If there’s two of you on the planet and the other guy is a doctor, that person is essentially your slave forever. You DO NOT have a right to other people’s work or other people’s shit.

    At the same time, I think Vergil’s a jerk for saying he has a “right” to not pay for universal health care system. Unless he wants to abolish that universal education for people too stupid to teach their own kids.

  • Vergil

    I’m not dancing around any issues. They are just not relevant to my point. You are arguing with several people at once. I never said that some governmental regulation wasn’t a good thing. Despite what you think, I’m sure we have plenty of common ground. We just disagree on the degree of regulation and socialization. You say we pay more for a “less satisfactory result.” Satisfactory according to whom? The WHO? Why must we use the WHO’s criteria? Another factiod Moore apparently omits (no, I haven’t seen the movie) is the according to the WHO the United States ranks first in “Patient Satisfaction”. So, on average, Americans are happier with their healthcare than the French are with Frances.

    Again I’ll ask, what does Cuba treating a few Americans have to do with either system? It’s an anecdote. A cute story. Wonderful for the individuals involved, but taken in context, demonstrates absolutely nothing about the workings of healthcare in either country.

    I have nothing against the US Postal system. I’m not saying Kurt is right or wrong. My point in showing his article is that he looks beyond what people take at face value because Michael Moore says so…which was the reason for my post in the first place. If we don’t hold documentaries to some bit of reason or reality, then it’s only a short step to awarding the next Academy Award to Loosechange.

  • MaryAnn

    You don’t have to take Moore’s word for anything. You can confirm what he says for yourself.

    Though if you’re not going to accept an authority like WHO, then I’m not sure who’d you’d believe.

  • Pook

    Regarding the nanny doing laundry in France. I think it is true, because we have it in Holland.

    During the first two or three weeks, someone will come daily (between 4 – 8 hours) to your house to help the parents out. The parents can ask this person for practical advice regarding their baby (feeding, sleeping patterns, etc.). This person is also doing chores in the house (cooking, cleaning, hoovering, laundrying, ironing, etc.). This help is paid for by the universal health system.

    Regarding the americans in paris speaking about the number of holidays (minimum 25 a year), unlimited sick-days, etc. It is all true.

  • Mark

    @Vergil:

    no, I haven’t seen the movie

    Hmm.

    I’m not saying Kurt is right or wrong.

    Prudent, since you aren’t in a position to.

    Satisfactory according to whom?

    Oh, I don’t know … how about according to people who think that it’s better for babies to be alive rather than dead? Or better for people to live a longer, healthier life?

    Or, since you brought up WHO, we can ask them. They put the United States 37th in the world, in spite of spending more per capita than anyone else — a lot more (twice as much per capita as #1-ranked France, for example).

    according to the WHO the United States ranks first in “Patient Satisfaction”. So, on average, Americans are happier with their healthcare than the French are with Frances.

    Can you point to more information on this?

    Moore, on the other hand, talked to several Americans who were much happier with the French healthcare system than the American one.

  • Vergil

    Okay, I’ll try one last time…
    It’s not the statements Moore makes that I dispute. I’m not saying that the anecdotes are made up. It is the way that he presents them. It’s like the old headline “Senator denies rape charge!” It’s all true, yet very misleading. I do accept the WHO’s findings. I accept that by certain criteria (of the WHO) we rank 37th, and by other criteria (of the WHO) we rank 1st. The WHO overall ranking skews toward systems which are more socialistic in nature. The “best” healthcare is very subjective. Some people would rather have free antibiotics and wait two years (or never) for a kidney transplant, while others would rather have to pay mucho deniro per month but have an MRI on demand. I do not personally believe that the U.S. system is the best. I might rank it 37th overall myself. My whole point is that Moore seems to rank it just below Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber. Again, I haven’t seen the movie, so tell me if I’m wrong (but please tell me why…not just a “hmmm”)

    Mark, WHO Responsiveness http://www.who.int/healthinfo/paper23.pdf
    “Responsiveness: The nations with the most responsive health systems are the United States, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Canada, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden.” from here http://www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-44.html

  • Moore seems to rank it just below Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber. Again, I haven’t seen the movie, so tell me if I’m wrong

    I’d say you were wrong. Moore’s position (and, just to be clear: I have seen the movie) seemed to be, instead, that, given how much money we spend on healthcare, and given how Ameica prides itself in leaning the world as an industrialized democracy, and given that we have so much wealth per capita, the state of American healthcare is apalling and inhuman. We’re not like Chad or Somalia, where we couldn’t have decent public health if we wanted to. There’s no reason in the world for us not to provide free, universal healthcare — no fees, no copays, no questions asked. That’s the shame, and that’s what Moore is asking us: why do we accept this?

  • MaryAnn

    It is the way that he presents them.

    That’s what documentaries do: they frame the facts. No documentary lacks a point of view.

    Some people would rather have free antibiotics and wait two years (or never) for a kidney transplant, while others would rather have to pay mucho deniro per month but have an MRI on demand.

    I’m sure it’s quite nice to have as much dinero as you need in order to pay for the care you require. Most people do not enjoy that privilege. As I said above, rich people will ALWAYS be able to get whatever their money will buy — it’s how people who are NOT rich are cared for that is Moore’s concern, and should be ours, if we’re to consider ourselves civilized.

  • Vergil

    Mark, fine if that is how you saw it. Others saw it otherwise. But I HAVE seen other Moore movies and he is NEVER objective and he DOES use sensationalized and irrational tactics to prove his point. Some think this is okay as long as the issue is addressed. I don’t. An even smaller minority don’t believe he does this at all. With these people I will simply agree to disagree and would suggest a class in critical thinking, but if life itself doesn’t teach them how to tell the difference then I suppose a class won’t either.

    MaryAnne, yes documentaries are supposed to frame the facts. Not distort the facts as Moore does. I want to poor to be taken care of as much as Moore. But I want the right answers. Not answered based upon a false reality. The fact is that you are going to find stories like those in the movie in ANY country in the world. Yes we can do much better. But the fact that Cuba is further down on a list which is skewed toward socialist countries than the evil (as portrayed by Moore) US system tells me that the only reason for him to include Cuba in the movie is for emotional impact.

  • Vergil

    Mark, you can’t say “given how much money we spend on healthcare” and “given that we have so much wealth per capita” in referencing the WHO’s list because they ARE given. They are incorporated into the ranking. If the US healthcare system were indeed “inhumane” and “appalling” then we should be near the bottom of the list.

  • Mark, you can’t say … in referencing the WHO’s list …

    Debateable, but since I wasn’t saying those things in reference to the WHO ranking, irrelevant. I was, when I said those things, given my interpretation of Moore’s position.

    Maybe I missed something in the WHO documents … how is per capita spending and wealth factored into the overall rankings?

    I want to poor to be taken care of as much as Moore

    Sicko isn’t about the poor. It’s about the middle classes with health insurance and how the for-profit US system can and does actively work against their interests.

  • Vergil

    The WHO ranking is part of Moore’s position.

    If you can’t find it in the documents, maybe you aren’t looking. But why should you? Moore has done all your research for you.
    From the WHO:
    “In designing the framework for health system performance, WHO broke new methodological ground, employing a technique not previously used for health systems. It compares each country’s system to what the experts estimate to be the upper limit of what can be done with the level of resources available in that country.
    I’ll let you find the rest for yourself.

    Fine, I want the “not rich” to be taken care of as much as Moore. No difference to the point.

  • MaryAnn

    It compares each country’s system to what the experts estimate to be the upper limit of what can be done with the level of resources available in that country.

    So desperately poor third-world Cuba, which spends a tiny percentage per capita on health care when compared to the richest country in the world, does only slightly worse with the far more dire level of resources available to it? I don’t see how that supports your contention, Vergil. That language sounds like it’s saying exactly what Moore — indirectly — and Mark here are saying: that the best that can be done in the U.S. with all the money we lavish on health care is hardly better than the best than can be done in Cuba, which spends very little per capita.

    If you want the “not rich” to be taken care of, shouldn’t we take a cue from the nations that do health care the best, or at least better than we do… like France, Britain, and Canada?

  • Vergil

    What the language says is that the ranking criteria itself compensates for the disparity in how much is spent. For example: if two countries have a population with similar average health (itself a subjective judgement), say a ranking of 10 and 11, but country A spends twice on healthcare as country B, then country A’s ranking goes down in an indirect ratio of that relative amount. Suddenly country A is ranked 20th. Now according to most people that would seem fair. But then to come back and say “we should be #1 because we spend the most” is illogical. Country A has been dropped 10 spots exactly because it spends more. Not because the citizens are less healthy. The US probably IS close to number one if you go by absolute health of it’s citizens. The main problem isn’t the health of the citizens but the cost, which is almost assuredly due to absurd administrative costs inherent in the private healthcare system. Since the US spends WAY more than any other country, and since spending itself lowers your ranking, then of course the US is further down on the list than it should be.

    These are things more germane to the discussion as to what the problems are and what should be done. But no, Moore is too busy telling individual stories from hand picked situations, and making absurd requests from Guantanamo personel to bother with details. I submit that the head-in-the-sand joe shmoe who has been woefully ignorant of the problems facing this country’s healthcare system is no more dangerous than the reactionary bleeding hearts that accept Moore’s black and white simplistic views without bothering to look into the details of a complex reality.

  • MaryAnn

    The US probably IS close to number one if you go by absolute health of it’s citizens.

    By what measure? Infant mortality is much higher here than in every other Western country, and life expectancy is lower. If you’re rich and you need the absolute best care in the world, damn the expense, then probably the U.S. is the place you come. But if you’re an ordinary schmoe and you need basic, preventative care, this is far from the best place you can be.

  • Aaron Pound

    Infant mortality is a misleading number – the U.S. reports certain infant deaths that many other countries do not. Several nations (including, for example, France, Switzerland and Italy) don’t consider an infant below a certain birth weight who dies to be a reportable infant death. The U.S., on the other hand, does. Most former “iron curtain” countries don’t consider an infant born before 28 weeks, or below a certain weight who dies within 7 days to be a reportable infant death. The U.S. does. Once you account for differences in reporting methodology, the U.S. is equal to, or better than most western industrialized nations when it comes to infant mortality.

    Oddly, this affects life expectancy. For most of the 20th century, life expectancy at age 45 did not change much. Life expectancy at birth, on the other hand, radically shifted – because infant mortality everywhere was drastically reduced. By reporting a higher infant mortality rate, the U.S. reduces its life expectancy at birth (and the impact is reasonably significant, and infant who is reported dead as an infant loses 70+ years of expected life, and has a proportionately higher impact on the tables than a person who lives to 45 and then dies).

    Accounting for reporting differences doesn’t move the U.S. to the top of the list in either category, but it does have an impact that is significant, and makes the U.S. (correctly) stack up better next to other western nations.

  • Bryan

    First, the Cuba example is the most rediculous I’ve ever seen. If you give up basically everything you own, heck yeah the country better provide you with health care. Me? I like not having to give everything to the government.

    Second, If health care becomes totally free to everyone, it becomes like any other public good. It will become abused because hey it’s free. Overcrowding. Lower quality of care.

    Another thing is that the European countries are nowhere near the size of the United States. Why I’ll agree the US Postal System is great, you can’t tell me the public school system is. That is where corporations step in because they can do things better, however, here I agree that capitalism needs help. I agree there needs to be improvements in the system but to look to socialized health care for the solution may not be the best.

    Some solutions? Companies provide mandatory health coverage to their workers. That way the companies which enjoy paying low wages to their undocumented workers, the 12 million of which are included in the “50 million uninsured Americans” have to bear more realistic burdens.

    The main reason for the expensive health care is malpractice insurance. We live in a sue happy society which means that malpractice insurance on doctors is through the roof. How this would best be fixed I’m not really sure? Maybe having a better method to weed out bad doctors? Maybe a better method to throw out frivolous law suits?

    Moore ignores the fact that the US is one of (if not the) the most obese countries in the world. Maybe people in the United States should mix in a salad to cut down on health care costs.

  • MaryAnn

    It will become abused because hey it’s free. Overcrowding. Lower quality of care.

    Riiigh. Cuz people will be thronging for free antibiotics.

    Do you really believe this?

    Why I’ll agree the US Postal System is great, you can’t tell me the public school system is.

    Could it use some fixing? Sure. Is it better than demanding all parents pay out of pocket to educate their children? Hell yes.

    That is where corporations step in because they can do things better,

    Fuck that shit. Corps do what’s best for them, not what’s best for the public.

    The main reason for the expensive health care is malpractice insurance.

    Bullshit. It’s the “need” for insurance companies to make obscene profits that’s the cause.

    Moore ignores the fact that the US is one of (if not the) the most obese countries in the world.

    This is true, that we’re absurdly obese. But our health-care system actively ignores preventative care. So while it would be most cost-efficient in the long run to help people get healthy — which sometimes would mean losing weight, or quitting smoking, or stopping abusing alcohol or drugs, and so on — our system has no way to deal with that. It only knows how to deal with people when we’ve reached a health crisis… if we’re lucky.

    Moore doesn’t “ignore” this fact — it’s part and parcel of the problem, even if he doesn’t directly address it.

  • @Bryan:

    Companies provide mandatory health coverage to their workers.

    Why should access to health care have anything at all to do with your employer — or even if you have an employer? Why is this a better solution than funding identical, universal coverage through taxes?

  • Vergil

    Exactly MaryAnne…by what measure? That’s what I’ve been saying. Now I’ve heard you ask the question, but does Moore ever ask this question? No. He never puts things into context. He is a slick used car salesman that tells you what he thinks will get you to buy what he is selling, instead of giving you the real facts and letting you decide what is best for your situation.

  • Vergil

    Sometimes corporations doing what is best for them IS what is best for the public. That’s what Adam Smith thought. Karl Marx thought otherwise. Neither was absolutely right, of course. But I’d say that if this were a two mile race, then Adam is in the lead by a mile and a half…

  • MaryAnn

    That’s what Adam Smith thought.

    Things were somewhat different in Adam Smith’s day. And anyway, who died and left Adam Smith in charge?

    He is a slick used car salesman that tells you what he thinks will get you to buy what he is selling,

    But Moore isn’t “selling” anything! He’s simple saying: Look, this is how the rest of the modern industrialized world does it. Why aren’t we doing something like this?

    That’s all. *Sicko* is the first step in making a change, not the end result.

  • Vergil

    So market economies only worked in the 18th century? Have you looked around lately? I’d say Adam Smith has been in charge of the West (even in good ol’ France) for about 150 years now. He conquered China in the 70’s, and Russia and the Eastern block in the 90’s, and is currently working on India and parts of Africa. The Middle East will probably have to wait until their oil runs out, but by then they should be easy pickings. I suppose that is why Moore gets away with his tactics, because he is preaching to the choir. He doesn’t stop at “why aren’t we doing this too?” He tells you why our system is so bad “cue violin music and single mother holding a crying baby in her arms” and why their system is better “cue sunshine and birds singing and happy Cubans with hands reaching out to help the poor victimized Americans.” He most definately IS selling something. He is selling the idea that America is broken, and needs fixing. He is selling liberalism. I’m not saying liberalism is bad. I’m saying that it is wrong for Moore to sell it as the Ultima II Swiss Army Utopiamizer! when it is actually just a good tool to have in the box. The methods and tricks Moore uses have been well documented. He cherry picks facts, alters time lines, and splices interviews to make his point. It’s fine and dandy that he gets praise from those that agree with his philosophy, but if he REALLY wanted to change things, he would be more concerned about convincing those in the middle, the ones who CAN bring about change if given a convincing, rational arguement.

  • MaryAnn

    So market economies only worked in the 18th century?

    Corporations wield WAY more power today than they did in the 18th century. That’s an enormous difference from how things were in Adam Smith’s day.

  • Vergil

    Which adds even MORE support for Adam Smiths theories, since they worked then, and are still the best thing going today.

  • MaryAnn

    Says you. Some people believe we have evidence enough that completely unregulated capitalism — or worse, what he have in the U.S., which is a playing field tipped in the favor of corporations over individual citizens — is not good for society on the whole.

  • Bryan

    As I said earlier, unregulated capitalism allows companies in the US to hire undocumented workers and gain the benefit of their cheap wages, while the taxpayer suffers and emergency rooms are shut down. Or companies with their outsourcing, which is cheaper for them, but results in unemployment being paid out to Americans who lose their jobs. And who pays for that? Not the corporations.

    However, corporations are more efficient and better able to handle most jobs compared to governments. But sometimes the government needs to step in and help. The problem is that this movie calls for a revolution, when there just need to be changes made. As someone said above, it merely shows that Michael Moore makes films for people who agree with him.

  • Dilberto

    MaryAnn- you succinctly mirrored my feelings about this movie too. Yes, it’s one-sided….but we all have lived with the counterpoint already, and we are simply TIRED of it. This movie is a call to revolt…damn straight!

  • Vergil

    No one is talking about “completely unregulated capitalism”. The strawman attack is another tactic of Moores. And the people who defend him I suppose.

  • MaryAnn

    You’re right, Vergil. I did not talk about “completely unregulated capitalism” in regards to this film: I said that the brand of capitalism we’re talking about here wildly favors corporations over people. And that’s what Moore is railing against, too.

  • mormonmafia

    I dont get why your so anti corporations. Private Firms run things so much better than the government does(have you been to the DMV lately). Yes they are obviously profit driven, but they make profits by providing the best service. Why do you think Castro himself had a doctor from out of the country to come and treat him. He obviously knows that better healthcare exists in capitalistic countries. Remember the heat scare in France several years ago where tons of old people died, where was socialized healthcare there. Now I realize that some people get the shaft don’t receive healthcare. Which is why I think governor Shwartenegger(might of spelled it wrong)
    and Romney’s healthcare ideas I feel are best. Oh and as for the movie itself, it was pretty biased and manipulative. I think too often people agree with his political opinion and so they give them positive reviews. They need to look at how well made it is as well.

  • MaryAnn

    have you been to the DMV lately

    Have you been to the post office lately? Do you parents or grandparents get Social Security?

    Remember the heat scare in France several years ago where tons of old people died, where was socialized healthcare there.

    Remember the heat in Chicago a few years ago when tons of old people died, where there wasn’t socialized healthcare there.

  • Don K

    Did some research as far as taxation in the countries more used as examples , lots of people screaming that they are paying more because of socialized medicine.
    Here are the facts.
    Canada 15-29%(Federal)
    France 10%-48.09%
    U.K. 0-40%
    U.S.A. 0-35%
    So with these comparisons I am not sure why we can’t go to Universal healthcare. The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 46 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

    This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment though a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

    Its a no brainer. How rich do these insurance exec’s need to be? Does the money fill the holes they have where there morals and ethics once were?

  • MaryAnn

    There’s an excellent breakdown here:

    http://www.knoxviews.com/node/4962

    that demonstrates how “socialized” health care won’t bankrupt us, and how citizens of the UK, France, and Canada are NOT drowning in taxes like anti-universal-health-care people try to convince us they are. They pay a little more in taxes, but it does NOT approach what Americans pay in taxes PLUS insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays.

  • mormonmafia

    Why do you like the post office so much, it is constantly messing up. Last week they didn’t even mail a bill that was supposed to go to my parents. I understand government control a hundred years ago when the post office was introduced and they had to get mail to remote areas. Now days though it would be much more efficient if it was controlled by private firms. UPS has proven thought private postal service works.

  • MaryAnn

    UPS doesn’t deliver letters to your house, free, six days a week, for which the sender had to spend a few paltry dimes.

    The US postal service is a model of efficiency and service, with the lowest rates and best service in the Western world. And it’s entirely self-supporting, and does not rely on tax revenue at all. Of course some letters go astray, but the vast majority of them do not. No system will every be 100 percent perfect, but the US postal service comes pretty damn close.

  • amanohyo

    I’d like to say that people always cite the DMV as an example of terrible service, but here in Maryland (suburban DC), I’ve always been impressed with how organized and fast everything is at the MVA (maybe it’s because they changed the abbreviation).

    Also, as an eBay gold power seller, I’ve sent thousands of packages and letters via the US postal service and they have never lost an item or sent it to the wrong address (hope I’m not jinxing myself). There is a slightly longer wait of course, but rarely more than five minutes.

    Why exactly would any American be opposed to basic universal health care that focuses on prevention? If you’re wealthy, you can still pay for special treatment, if you’re poor, you can finally receive the health care you deserve, and if you’re in the shrinking middle, you pay a little more taxes and a pay a lot less for health insurance.

    How could preventing and treating the physical and psychological illnesses of millions of people possibly be a bad a idea for anyone except an insurance company? No one’s saying that the government will do a flawless job (The Cube knows Moore understands the fallibility of the government) but it’s impossible that they could make the situation any worse than what we have now.

  • MaryAnn

    The last time I went to renew my driver’s license here in NYC, I was astonished at how quickly and efficiently I was in and out of the DMV. Going to the doctor should be that easy.

  • Ken

    mormonmafia: Private Firms run things so much better than the government does….Yes they are obviously profit driven, but they make profits by providing the best service.

    Corporations provide the best service for people who can afford their service. They’re not concerned with people who can’t afford it, as there’s no profit to be made from them.

    mormonmafia: Now days though it would be much more efficient if it was controlled by private firms. UPS has proven thought private postal service works.

    I’ve found, through my experiences at the office, that UPS is horribly unreliable. There are plenty of times that packages are simply not delivered, or delivered to the wrong place, or they’re given to the building’s super, despite our requests that UPS not do that. (And since the super is drinking on the job half the time, we don’t always get our packages right away.) We don’t even bother putting in for a pickup anymore, as the UPS rep only shows up half the time to get our outgoing packages. (We drop them in the dropbox down the street.)

    MaryAnn: The last time I went to renew my driver’s license here in NYC, I was astonished at how quickly and efficiently I was in and out of the DMV.

    I’ve never had any major issues either. I don’t understand why the DMV has become the poster boy for long lines.

  • Chelsea

    I would be glad to wait for healthcare, then to be denied healthcare and get nothing at all.

  • MBI

    ***I’ve never had any major issues either. I don’t understand why the DMV has become the poster boy for long lines.***

    Holy fucking shit. I’m moving to where you guys live before I need my license renewed, ’cause I can tell you that every stereotype is fulfilled in this part of the country.

  • MBI

    Just saw the film. Need to vent my spleen a bit, but let me make it clear that I liked the film overall and would even call it Moore’s best film. He’s the best at what he does, for certain.

    But this is a little more serious than nitpicking, I think:
    *Moore is a terrible fucking actor, he sounds smarmy when he needs to be sincere, his attempts to manipulate are as obvious as a QVC salesman’s (“You got this for free??? I had no idea!!”)
    *The French system sucks pretty hard. That’s why bunches of French are leaving, that’s why they just elected a right-winger president to make things more American-like.
    *Even if I didn’t know that, I really do protest the idea that even new mothers can’t do their own fucking laundry. There’s a real anti-individual vibe to this movie I don’t like. Can’t I just support universal health care because it will benefit ME?
    *Castro is, in fact, a bad person for reasons besides American propagandists not liking him.
    *The part about him paying for the insurance of a political enemy struck me as an asshole move. Not the paying for it, just putting it in the movie. Exploitive, felt yucky.

  • MaryAnn

    The French system sucks pretty hard. That’s why bunches of French are leaving, that’s why they just elected a right-winger president to make things more American-like.

    I think we need to remember that even most “right-wingers” in Europe are far more liberal than most Democrats in the U.S. No system is perfect, but our health-care disaster sucks way, way worse than anyone else’s in the Western, industrialized world.

    *Even if I didn’t know that, I really do protest the idea that even new mothers can’t do their own fucking laundry.

    I guess you’ve never been home all day with no one to talk to but a squawling newborn. (I haven’t either.) C’mon: it’s not that new mothers can’t do their own laundry, it’s that new mothers could use a break, once in a fucking while, just like everyone else. Full-time housewifery is the ONLY job that never, ever ends, just goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    There’s a real anti-individual vibe to this movie I don’t like. Can’t I just support universal health care because it will benefit ME?

    Who says you can’t? But did you miss, you know, the entire point of the movie, that our habit of thinking only of “me” isn’t really working so well for us, and that it’s maybe time to starting thinking a little bit about “we”?

    *Castro is, in fact, a bad person for reasons besides American propagandists not liking him.

    Yup. And yet somehow, this poor, downtrodden nation ruled by a heartless dictator still manages to take care of the health of its citizens better than the U.S. does. Isn’t that mortally embarrassing?

    *The part about him paying for the insurance of a political enemy struck me as an asshole move. Not the paying for it, just putting it in the movie. Exploitive, felt yucky.

    Moore told this guy before the movie was first screened that he had done this, so it wasn’t a surprise to him. (Though of course the guy did not know at the time Moore sent him the anonymous check.) I dunno: I think Moore makes an excellent point about supporting everyone’s right to free speech, and it’s not a point that Moore’s enemies will ever make regarding him. On the whole, I think the value of what Moore did is greater than the potential assholery of actually revealing that he did it.

  • MBI

    As far as assholery goes, I’m just talking about the movie itself. In the real world, I agree that saving a life probably outweighs it by several times, but it doesn’t make it feel any less gross for the film.

    **But did you miss, you know, the entire point of the movie, that our habit of thinking only of “me” isn’t really working so well for us, and that it’s maybe time to starting thinking a little bit about “we”?**

    I suppose you could say that. But you can also make the argument that universal health care is good even if you’re a selfish American asshole, like me. It benefits me and people I care about when we can all get health care. Would’ve liked to see more of that in there.

    **I think we need to remember that even most “right-wingers” in Europe are far more liberal than most Democrats in the U.S. No system is perfect, but our health-care disaster sucks way, way worse than anyone else’s in the Western, industrialized world.**

    Agreed on both counts. I’m just saying that Moore is wholeheartedly praising a French welfare state system that a majority of actual French people apparently want to be less cushy than it is.

    ** I guess you’ve never been home all day with no one to talk to but a squawling newborn. (I haven’t either.) C’mon: it’s not that new mothers can’t do their own laundry, it’s that new mothers could use a break, once in a fucking while, just like everyone else. Full-time housewifery is the ONLY job that never, ever ends, just goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.**

    Hey, I didn’t say it was easy. I’m just saying, I can’t see the justification for the government paying to do their laundry. Not gonna bend on that one, sorry.

  • i wonder who does MBIs laundry? hell, i don’t have a baby (though i did help raise two) and i *hate* doing laundry. it’s time consuming and never-ending and thankless… when you’re a new mother, you don’t get much sleep, your body is exhausted *and* in an uproar and you’re at the beck and call of a little creature who doesn’t give a damn about you… i think giving some employment to someone who comes in to do your laundry is no worse or more wasteful than having someone paid to clean the subways and public restrooms.

  • MBI

    I do my own laundry. I do it every week because I don’t have enough clothes to last me longer. Before college, I did my whole family’s laundry. It really does not strike me as something that the government needs to bother with.

    And if I was gonna pay tax money for the government to do someone’s laundry, it would be for when those mothers go back to work, not the time they have off. That makes way more sense to me.

  • Aaron Pound

    **Yup. And yet somehow, this poor, downtrodden nation ruled by a heartless dictator still manages to take care of the health of its citizens better than the U.S. does. Isn’t that mortally embarrassing?**

    Actually, it is kind of dubious that Cuban health care is better than the U.S. system – the measures used to support the notion that Cuban healthc care is better essentially measure different things in the two countries. The standards used to determining whether an infant “counts” for mortality statistics are quite different for example (and Cuba is much tighter on its definition of a “live birth”, discounting lots of babies that would be counted in the U.S.). When the data is gathered in the same way, using the same standards, a meaningful comparison could be made. Until then, not so much.

    As a side observation, we could look to how the Federal government insures its own civilian employees. On just about everything, the Federal government self-insures – for example, the Fed doesn’t carry auto insurance on its vehicles, or fire insurance on its buildings and so on – it just pays for the losses out of its own funds. But for government employees, it turns to private health insurers. The Federal government could run a self-run program (it does run Medicare/Medicaid, and self-insure with respect to just about everything else), but it does not. This may demonstrate the government’s belief as to the efficacy of a health care program it might be able to devise.

  • MaryAnn

    Are you suggesting that the very fact that the Federal government does not do something is “proof” that it shouldn’t do it?

    When the data is gathered in the same way, using the same standards, a meaningful comparison could be made. Until then, not so much.

    Whatever quibbles we can come up with, the fact remains that Americans are less healthy that citizens in other industrialized nations despite spending many multiples more on health care. And American are only a little bit better off than the citizens of Cuba, who spend a minuscule fraction of what we spend.

    How did we let this happen? And why do we continue to let this happen? Those are the things we should be talking about as a society.

  • Aaron Pound

    **Are you suggesting that the very fact that the Federal government does not do something is “proof” that it shouldn’t do it?**

    No, I’m suggesting that the fact that the Federal government self-insures for every risk except health insurance for its civil servants is probably a data point to consider.

    **Whatever quibbles we can come up with, the fact remains that Americans are less healthy that citizens in other industrialized nations despite spending many multiples more on health care.**

    Not really. No other nation gathers its data in the same way that the U.S. does – for the much touted infant mortality statistics for example, just about every other nation is much more restrictive on what it considers to be a “live birth” – which significantly changes the figures. Despite all of the hoopla about how much “less healthy” residents in the U.S. are, the figures just aren’t capable of supporting that statement. It is comparing apples to oranges (and when attempts have been made to reconcile the data, and the U.S. comes out very well as a result).

    **And American are only a little bit better off than the citizens of Cuba, who spend a minuscule fraction of what we spend.**

    What was the last new cancer medication produced by Cuban doctors? The Cuban medical system is adequate at best, but produces almost nothing new. The United States, on the other hand, has produced almost as many new cancer medications over the last twenty years as the rest of the world combined. The U.S. is similarly in the forefront of most other areas of medical innovation as well. The U.S. spends more money than other nations, but only because they get to free ride on U.S. research and development.

  • MaryAnn

    The United States, on the other hand, has produced almost as many new cancer medications over the last twenty years as the rest of the world combined. The U.S. is similarly in the forefront of most other areas of medical innovation as well.

    But most of that research does NOT come from the private sector — it comes from universities and other institutions that are supported by public money. So that’s an argument in favor of public medicine.

  • steph

    I cried (quietly!) at about 3 different times of this incredible movie. I’m a 23 year old with systemic lupus, which took me painful years to even get a doctor to acknowledge someone my age would “even know what pain is.” Even though I’ve NEVER tried to get a prescription early, there are about 3 stopgates I must go through every month with my prescriptions, because they assume I could be a drug addict. Recently I had to fill out a form that was thrust at me at my doctor’s office (with no explanation or help) that I had to fill out before I could see him. On that form, out of 20 surgeries and treatments I had to pick out 5 that I deem “non essential” that the insurance company could NOT cover me on if it came up. This included items such as pap smears and heart surgeries. Keep in mind, I am double covered. My parents also suffer from illness, and since I can’t afford what things still cost and can’t find affordable physical therapy so I have to live at home right now (my insurance paid for a month of physical therapy, which helped immensley, but then dropped it. I cannot pay the hundreds of dollars it costs per visit by myself) I am currently seriously looking into moving to France, and a big reason is because of the care there. I feel I am ignored, looked down upon and forgotten in my own country, and all I did to deserve it was have my white blood cells betray me.

    Not matter HOW you feel about Michael Moore, PLEASE SEE this movie and keep it with you when voting time comes around!

  • MaryAnn

    I really think the only people who can complain about this movie are those who are lucky enough never to have had to deal with insurance companies, people who are lucky enough never to have been really badly sick or injured.

    ((((hugs))), steph. Your story is, alas, all too familiar.

  • Aaron Pound

    **But most of that research does NOT come from the private sector — it comes from universities and other institutions that are supported by public money. So that’s an argument in favor of public medicine.**

    Yes and no. Yes, a lot of research is done at universities and other publicly supported institutions. No, in that many of the medication studies are funded directly by the private sector and turned into a use-ready product by private organizations. The basic research starting in a university setting and then the concrete development into an actual product ready to go to patients being done by a private company is a very common pattern in U.S. pharmaceutical development.

  • MaryAnn

    Still, what does this have to do with how we pay for health care? Why can’t the “private” pharmaceutical companies (the ones who benefit from ridiculous levels of corporate welfare and have politicians in their pockets) sell their products under a single-payer/universal system? They somehow manage to do that when they sell drugs to Britain, France, Canada, and all those other nations with universal health care.

    And how do all the non-U.S. pharmaceutical companies — you know, the ones based in Britain and France, for instance — manage to survive?

  • Aaron Pound

    **Still, what does this have to do with how we pay for health care? Why can’t the “private” pharmaceutical companies (the ones who benefit from ridiculous levels of corporate welfare and have politicians in their pockets) sell their products under a single-payer/universal system? They somehow manage to do that when they sell drugs to Britain, France, Canada, and all those other nations with universal health care.**

    It doesn’t have a lot to do with how we pay for health care – but it does have a lot to do with how much we pay for health care. Figures are constantly btossed around about how much more U.S. residents pay for health care than people in other nations, “without getting anything more for our dollars”. But we do get more for our dollars – we get lots of research and lots of new pharmaceuticals and innovative technologies. The only problem (from the U.S. resident’s perspective) is that much of the rest of the world free rides on the U.S. paying for these things: we pay the development costs for things, but then people in other countries get to reap the benefits without paying those developmenjt costs (because we aren’t going to deny cancer curing medications to people just because they live in Europe and didn’t kick in for the research). But if the U.S. health care system didn’t pay for this innovation, no one would.

    **And how do all the non-U.S. pharmaceutical companies — you know, the ones based in Britain and France, for instance — manage to survive?**

    Much less research investment. Like I said, before, to take one area of development, the U.S. has introduced as many cancer medications in the last twenty or so years as the rest of the world combined.

    This isn’t so much a “public vs. private” question as a “what do we get for all the extra dollars we spend compared to everyone else” question.

  • MaryAnn

    But we do get more for our dollars – we get lots of research and lots of new pharmaceuticals and innovative technologies.

    As I said above, this is not true.

    Most of the extra money we spend on “health care” in the U.S. goes to absurd levels of corporate profits, CEO bonuses, and administrative chores. It goes nowhere near actually taking care of people. Take the profit out of health care, and it can all be done much, much cheaper, and much more effectively.

    And even if you were 100 percent correct, yours still is not much of an argument. Most of us won’t ever benefit from all those supposed high-tech and modern pharmaceuticals because we can’t pay for it. Even if we have insurance, we’ll be denied coverage for the care we need. THAT is the gist of *Sicko.* Have you even seen the film?

  • Aaron Pound

    **Most of the extra money we spend on “health care” in the U.S. goes to absurd levels of corporate profits, CEO bonuses, and administrative chores. It goes nowhere near actually taking care of people. Take the profit out of health care, and it can all be done much, much cheaper, and much more effectively.**

    Some goes to that, since it is run as a for profit business. But, on the other hand, the for profit version of a health care system provides piles of new treatments and innovations on a regular basis. The altruistic non-profit version simply doesn’t do as well on that score. One might wonder why the non-profit system fails in this regard, and wonder what might happen to innovation and development if that system becomes the only one out there.

    **And even if you were 100 percent correct, yours still is not much of an argument. Most of us won’t ever benefit from all those supposed high-tech and modern pharmaceuticals because we can’t pay for it. Even if we have insurance, we’ll be denied coverage for the care we need.**

    “Most”? Please. That’s not even remotely related to reality. The bulk of people in the U.S. are covered, and their coverage will pony up when needed (someone ends up using these new treatments and making investing in them worthwhile, and there aren’t nearly enough millionaires to make developing them worthwhile). Some people are not covered, or have crummy coverage – which lots of people think is wrong and a system failure, but saying “most” is an excercise in hyperbole of the type that just reinforces how flimsy most of the arguments in Sicko truly are.

  • MaryAnn

    the for profit version of a health care system provides piles of new treatments and innovations on a regular basis. The altruistic non-profit version simply doesn’t do as well on that score.

    You’re being disingenous about what “not-for-profit” means. Plenty of people make very good livings working for not-for-profit companies. And plenty of valuable research comes out of federally funded research.

    But in what universe can it possibly be a better thing that an insurance company CEO is paid millions and earns millions in bonuses while it denies a single sick or injured person paying for its insurance coverage for a necessary treatment? How can anyone justify this?

    The real question is: How can we justify letting anyone not get the health care they need?

  • Joanne

    Just got back from a preview showing of this here in NZ – a small, but I think generally flabbergasted audience. I’m British, and four years ago was lucky to come out of a road traffic accident (me pedestrian versus large car) with my leg intact. The reason I did so was utterly amazing healthcare from the NHS. My doctors were all excellent and did everything they could to save my leg (open tibia/fibula fracture). I was in hospital for over a month in total, had six operations, masses of physio and follow-up care. It didn’t cost me a penny, and my leg’s back in full working order if somewhat scarred. Moore’s section on the UK was rose-tinted to an extent but generally accurate. He skated over the problems we have with waiting lists and dodgy hospital food and so on, but the crux of the matter is that if you’re ill, you can get seen and get better and it doesn’t matter who you are. And I’ve always taken that for granted. I didn’t really realise how lucky I was. Because even if Moore’s film is exaggerating the scale of the problem (with Moore, likely, I know) the fact remains that a free healthcare system is not that difficult, is not abused (it’s free, but nobody wants to go to hospital!!) and is generally a Good Thing.

    Oh, and the UK system is a bit more streamlined than the French – I found their system of paying and then having fees reimbursed awfully complicated, especially when the end result of free care is the same!

  • MaryAnn

    He skated over the problems we have with waiting lists and dodgy hospital food and so on

    But have those problems here, too, except we pay a ton more money for them and get much poorer results (in the aggregate). So those things are a wash.

    I don’t think Moore *is* exaggerating the scale of the problem. If anything, he downplays it. The peace of mind that would come with not having to worry about health care would be a huge boon to stressed-out Americans. Anyone who has had to fight insurance companies when ill, when you should be focusing your energy on getting well, surely knows this. Anyone who doesn’t have insurance and has debated whether that little twinge or that low-grade week-long fever is bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor surely knows this. Moore touches on this idea in the film, but more as an afterthought than anything else. Even when we’re hale and hearty in the U.S., we’re still worrying about health care, and we shouldn’t have to.

  • misterb

    *the for profit version of a health care system *provides piles of new treatments and innovations on a *regular basis. The altruistic non-profit version *simply doesn’t do as well on that score.

    However, these innovations aren’t the ground-breaking type. Alexander Fleming did not get wealthy from creating penicillin (and that took a full team, all academics and researchers, no VC’s) I will argue that the money influence on medical research is not that different from the money influence on movies – the money chases profits, not the greater human good. In the medical world, we get lots of tweaks on already successful drugs that have a proven market; in the movie world, we get Michael Bay.

  • if anyone doubts the complications and stress of the HMO and US healthcare systems, go to this blog: http://howsdave.blogspot.com/ and read the sections on trying to get an absolutely vital chemotherapy authorized by an HMO, as well as the petty bureacracy of pharmacies and other “providers.” these are smart, sophisticated people, with insurance, and one who had been a registered nurse. it’s really frightening.

  • Aaron Pound

    **You’re being disingenous about what “not-for-profit” means. Plenty of people make very good livings working for not-for-profit companies. And plenty of valuable research comes out of federally funded research.**

    Yes they do, and yes it does. However, we have the concrete reality that the government driven health care systems simply don’t do as good a job as creating new medical technology as the U.S. system does. It is easy to look at a handful of things and say that a system is “broken”, but without looking at what the system does do, “fixes” are likely to create new problems.

    The government run health care systems may only work as well as they do because they get a free ride on medical innovation. Take away U.S. medical development by radically changing the system, and the system worldwide may become moribund. Do you want to take that risk so we can have a nanny do our laundry?

    **But in what universe can it possibly be a better thing that an insurance company CEO is paid millions and earns millions in bonuses while it denies a single sick or injured person paying for its insurance coverage for a necessary treatment? How can anyone justify this?**

    One in which, apparently, we want to have rapid medical innovation.

    **The real question is: How can we justify letting anyone not get the health care they need?**

    health care resources are not infinite. Even if the government runs health care, there will still be limits on how much health care can be provided. Earlier in this thread someone talked about being shocked that they would need to list procedures they didn’t think were necessary and have those not be covered. But coverage would be limited in any system – no system can afford to provide an infinite amount of coverage to everyone. People will still pay for health care – by waiting, by accepting reduced service, by limitations on the procedures and care they can receive and so on.

  • Aaron Pound

    **However, these innovations aren’t the ground-breaking type.**

    As many new cancer treatements as the rest of the world combined.

    Not the ground-breaking type indeed.

  • MaryAnn

    However, we have the concrete reality that the government driven health care systems simply don’t do as good a job as creating new medical technology as the U.S. system does.

    You’re going to have to support that. Because there are innovative British and French pharmaceutical companies, too. How are they operating?

    Do you want to take that risk so we can have a nanny do our laundry?

    Nice straw man.

    One in which, apparently, we want to have rapid medical innovation.

    Are you suggesting that insurance companies are the source of medical innovation?

  • Kevin Hall

    I simply do not understand everyone’s love for single-payer health care? Two things: First, how much do you love your HMO? You don’t?? Really?? Now, imagine if your HMO was run by the folks down at the DMV!

    Second – in any system where demand is essentially unlimited and supply is, there WILL BE RATIONING. The only question is this: What form of rationing will be used? I would rather we had no health insurance, or a model based more on how auto insurance works, than what we have now. As long as health care is paid for with other people’s money, whether it’s employer-paid insurance, or tax dollars, the delivery of health care will be substantially less efficient than it otherwise would be.

    As an example, look at the history of laser eye surgery. It’s covered by virtually no insurance, yet prices keep dropping while the quality of the procedure keeps improving. Compare this with any system where OPM pays the freight, where prices keep rising and quality and choice do not improve, and you should be able to see the false hope of government health care.

    Finally, just one minor note regarding infant mortality in Cuba. Doctors there monitor pregnancy very closely (far more closely than almost any other country in the world). Why? Because the UN uses infant mortality stats to draw conclusions about the general state of a nation’s health care. This is all worth noting because in Cuba, doctors order abortions any time potential complications occur during pregnancy. Aborted pregnancies do not count in infant mortality rates. Irrespective of one’s position on abortion, there is something galling about compulsory abortion for the sad excuse of “cooking the books” for the UN.

  • MaryAnn

    I simply do not understand everyone’s love for single-payer health care?

    Because the evidence of the world over shows that it works better than what we have here now. How hard is that to understand?

  • Jurgan

    I simply do not understand why everyone constantly shouts about how terrible the DMV and the Post Office are. Yeah, I occasionally have to wait in line at the DMV (though it’s gotten better), but I’ve always been seen the same day. In many cases, my uninsured fiancee has had to wait for weeks to get a doctor’s appointment at a place we can afford, or we pay through the nose to get in the same day, depend on how desperate it is. And that’s probably the biggest argument for change I can make: it’s one of the most agonizing feelings there is for someone to be sick and having to decide whether it’s serious enough to warrant going to the doctor. Lifting that stress would improve not only individual health but the mental health of American society. She’d be more than willing to wait a week or two for an appointment if it was affordable. Far better than not having the money and never getting in at all.

  • MaryAnn

    In many cases, my uninsured fiancee has had to wait for weeks to get a doctor’s appointment at a place we can afford,

    What?! Shocking! Are you suggesting that access to health care is rationed under our wonderful free-market system?

  • Kevin Hall

    Because the evidence of the world over shows that it works better than what we have here now. How hard is that to understand?

    It is true that the US is ranked only 37th by the WHO. However, the WHO methodologies are clearly skewed. For instance, government statistics are uncritically accepted from some countries that clearly “cook the books.” Second, some statistics, such as disability-adjusted life expectancies, which pruport to show how long people will live in good health, ignore efforts to improve (and lengthen) the lives of the disabled and elderly. Since these numbers don’t figure into the DALE scores, there is no incentive for countries to spend resouces on their elderly. WHO statistics do not take into account the level of inventiveness that exists in free market societies. As governments take over the delivery of health care, patent applications for drugs, equipment, and new procedures invariably decline.

    Finally, it’s worth pointing out that when people from around the world get ill and need the best treatment available, (and they are not part of a Michael Moore publicity stunt) they come to the US.

  • Kevin Hall

    What?! Shocking! Are you suggesting that access to health care is rationed under our wonderful free-market system?

    I can’t decide whether you are being deliberately obtuse, or you simply did not understand the points I was making. First, we don’t have a free market system in much of American health care. There is a substantial amount of interference with the free market, resulting in avoidable ineffeciencies. Second, there is always rationing whenever demand for goods and services outstrips supply. Allow me to elaborate on both points.

    In any system where prices are maintained at artifically low levels, whether it’s by government fiat (such as medicare pricing) or by pressure from HMO’s and PPO’s, there is inevitable scarcity. This can be seen in one example after another.

    Look at the price of housing in NYC, the cost of construction materials after Katrina, the cost of gasoline in the 70’s and early 80’s, the cost of electical power in California a few years ago, or college tuition now. In each instance, some government agency at the local, state, or national level set prices below the equilibrium price that would have occured in a free market. In every case, the result was entirely predictable shortages. (As a corollary, look at the markets for dairy products, where the federal government maintiains prices above the equilibrium – there are gluts in those markets.)

    Any system that separates people’s choices from the costs of those choices will result in similar scarcities. If you think you’re waiting too long for cheap care, wait until you have to wait for free care.

    In some parts of the medical marketplace, there is less interference from the government, and people make rational choices because they must bear the costs themselves. We have seen this in areas like Lasik surgery, where prices have been steadily declining for years with no prodding from the government. That’s because the providers are actively competing for dollars – they advertise prices and benefits, offer payment plans, and offer increased consumer choice. There is no waiting for these services.

    The same can be said for many strictly elective procedures. It is easier to get an appoitment for a new nose than for the flu. Once again, competition works to deliver services in the most effecient manner.

    How would this apply to our current mess? By way of analogy, consider the market for auto service. While this analoqy is imperfect, there are enough similarities that we can draw some conclusions.

    State Farm does not pay for oil changes and tune-ups. Nor, for that matter, do they pay for brakes, tires, or mufflers. Neither should our medical insurance. As long as the prices for simple procedures and routine office visits are maintained at levels out of line with their actual costs, people will continue to over-use them. However, in a system where consumers could shop for these “basic” services, we would see prices drop quickly, just like what has already happened with eye care and elective cosmetic surgery.

    Other methods of relieving the system include making many of the drugs currently available only by Rx available OTC. In many countries, antibiotics do not require a visit to the doctor. Nor should they here.

    Relieving insurance companies from laws requiring mandatory coverage of certain procedures also drive up medical costs. Although many people swear by chiropractic medicine, I do not. I don’t see why I should have to pay for an insurance plan that offers it – I will never use it. High deductible, catastrophic insurance, would benefit many people and drive down the actual cost of medical care far more than any government prescription.

  • Kevin Hall

    I simply do not understand why everyone constantly shouts about how terrible the DMV and the Post Office are. Yeah, I occasionally have to wait in line at the DMV (though it’s gotten better), but I’ve always been seen the same day.

    If I walk up to Best Buy a few seconds before closing, what do you think happens? Someone holds the door open for me and invites me in. Why? Because I am the Customer, source of revenues and profits, and, as a result, I am treated with courtesy and respect. Also, because if they don’t, I will take my business elsewhere. My money will spend just as well at Circuit City or Wallyworld. They know it. I know it.

    Contrast that with the Post Office, where the door Nazi is waiting to throw the deadbolt and gloat as you lunge to beat the clock at closing time. You are not a customer, you are a chump, and you have nowhere else to go. You will have to come back tomorrow, and the postal worker can be as fast or slow as they want because they can’t be fired, and you can’t take your business elsewhere.

    When I go to the DMV I am usually seen the same day (take a number, wait in this line, take another number, wait in that line, wrong form, come back tomorrow when you have the correct form. Take time off from work because we aren’t open late – don’t like it? Tough. Get back in line.) I can’t wait to come back here!

    Customers that can take their business elsewhere are always treated better than the chumps waiting for government employees who have no incentive to work efficiently.

    In many cases, my uninsured fiancee has had to wait for weeks to get a doctor’s appointment at a place we can afford, or we pay through the nose to get in the same day, depend on how desperate it is.

    That’s because the system is overused by people who don’t have to bear the cost of their decision to use the system. If I want to see my Internist, it’s four weeks for non-emergency care. When the co-pay was only $10, it was 6-8 weeks. Now that it’s $20, the wait is a bit shorter. If the co-pay were $50 instead of $20, how much shorter would the wait be?

    And if the payment were $0, do you think the wait will get longer or shorter?

  • MaryAnn

    Finally, it’s worth pointing out that when people from around the world get ill and need the best treatment available, (and they are not part of a Michael Moore publicity stunt) they come to the US.

    No, it’s worth pointing out that when RICH people want to get the best medical care in the world, they come to the United States. Anyone who can’t afford to travel internationally and pay for their own care out of their own pocket does much, much better under the various nationalized and/or single-payer systems.

    As for competition in medical care: How much shopping around are you willing to do when you’re bleeding to death after a car accident? Or feeling your chest squeeze the breath out of you when you’re having a heart attack?

  • Kevin Hall

    Anyone who can’t afford to travel internationally and pay for their own care out of their own pocket does much, much better under the various nationalized and/or single-payer systems.

    The Cleveland Clinic alone averages 600+ Canadian patients per year who go there because they do not want to wait for their single-payer system to perform their bypass operations. How many Americans are going to Canada to wait in line for health care? Many medical clinics from Vancouver to Boston report similar numbers for people who would rather pay for American care than die waiting for Canadian care.

    How much shopping around are you willing to do when you’re bleeding to death after a car accident? Or feeling your chest squeeze the breath out of you when you’re having a heart attack?

    Again, I have to ask: Are you being deliberately obtuse? I tried my best to make clear that routine care should not be the pervue of any insurance system anywhere. Insurance should be for catastrophic care only. Car accidents and MI’s are fine examples of catastrophic situations that a prudent person should buy insurance for.

    But buying (or worse, insisting other people pay for) “insurance” for expenses you know you will incur (allergy medications, annual physicals, etc) strikes me as the very epitome of absurdity.

    In a system where routine care was paid for directly by the users, prices would drop radically, as they already have in areas of medicine where competition has been allowed to occur.

  • MaryAnn

    Competition in health care only works when it comes to elective procedures that are not matters of basic good health. Or are you advocating that poor people should make do with “fast-food” low-quality health “care” while others who are better off can go for the luxury type? How would very poor people pay for basic preventative care in this competitive system of yours? (A single-payer system funded by taxes would still be available to people too poor to pay taxes. But people too poor to pay taxes likely still would not be able to afford to pay out of pocket for health care under your suggested system.) Because that’s what would happen if everyone were paying out of pocket for nonemergency care. Kind of like we have now.

    Look: rich people are always going to be able to get the best of everything. Single-payer health care is about making sure the poorest and most vulnerable get what they need, too. It’s really as simple as that.

  • Grant

    If I walk up to Best Buy a few seconds before closing, what do you think happens? Someone holds the door open for me and invites me in. Why? Because I am the Customer, source of revenues and profits, and, as a result, I am treated with courtesy and respect. Also, because if they don’t, I will take my business elsewhere. My money will spend just as well at Circuit City or Wallyworld. They know it. I know it.

    Have you ever actually been to a Best Buy? At any time of day?

    The 16-25 year old kids working there doesn’t see you as “the Customer, source of revenues and profits”. He sees you as “The annoying asshole who asks stupid questions and expects me to wait on him hand and foot so that he’ll buy a $9 DVD off the fucking bargain bin.”

    Know why? Cause he’s working less than 30 hours a week (so the corporation doesn’t have to pay benefits)for within a few dollars of minimum wage (so the corporation can keep man-hour costs low and profits up). Best Buy (or Circuit City or Wallyworld) gives him no reason to care, and so he doesn’t. And who could blame him?

    The worship of the all-mighty dollar that leads to one’s real experience in Best Buy is bad enough when the topic is DVD’s. But the topic isn’t DVD’s. The topic is lives.

  • misterb

    I’m a little late to the party here, but I had to post this URL which I feel is the final indictment necessary to the for-profit business of medicine:

    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/10/04/fundraising-dca.html

  • DpM

    Being from England I watched this film last night with a level of initial scepticism, after all – I knew the film was for the ‘benefit’ of American audiences and I also knew that Michael Moore is not exactly known for given a fair and balance insight into the issue he is tackling. So – “eyes-open sceptic” would describe me last night.

    I liked it. The film made me feel quite outraged to be honest but it did get a good point across – if in quite a hard-nosed way. I won’t be so patronising as to say I feel sorry for our “cousins across the pond” in what you have to deal with but I must say this is all politics at the end of the day – if our politicians around the world weren’t so corrupt I don’t believe systems like this could ever grow into the indestructible monsters they are now.

    I recently had to go into hospital in the UK as an emergency – it was my first time in hospital for many years (I’ve always been generally lucky with my health) and I was treated professionally, the staff were skilled and very pleasant, I had many (probably quite expensive) tests performed and a diagnosis provided by the “Boss” on his morning rounds – and, yes, when I was discharged there was no bill to pay. There were further tests planned and I got dates for these pretty quickly – within a week to 10 days, these tests were then done as an outpatient – all the latest technology I guess (well, it all looked very complicated and was nice and shiny) and still no bills.

    Of course, we all pay for this up-front (in a way) via our National Insurance, which is taken from our pay at source, but just like Tony Benn (the old English guy, in the film, who used to be a politician – one with principles) said… “This will remove your money worries in times of ill health”… the US insurance seems to aim for that too… on the outside – a facade – but, in reality, it cannot be the case when the organisations are there to make a profit. I was quite proud of our NHS when I was in hospital and Sicko did nothing to dent that pride.

    I think capitalism is great… I like to work hard to pay for what I want. I don’t class myself as fitting into any specific political mould, but there must a bit of me that is Socialist / Communist ‘cos when it comes to healthcare I’d want that comfortable feeling behind me that society wouldn’t ever forget me because it was convenient.

    So, yeah, thumbs-up for Sicko, maybe it will make a difference even.

  • MaryAnn

    there must a bit of me that is Socialist / Communist ‘cos when it comes to healthcare I’d want that comfortable feeling behind me that society wouldn’t ever forget me because it was convenient.

    Funny how people don’t think it’s “socialist/communist” to expect the fire department to put out fires without a profit motive, or the police to investigate crime without a profit motive, or the schools to educate children without a profit motive, and yet it’s someone “socialist/communist” to expect people to get the health care they need to be productive members of society.

    Funny, too, how no one thinks it’s “socialist/communist” for huge global corporations to get tax breaks, to have entire federal legislatures at their beck and call. Like, say, how enormous insurance companies have the U.S. Senate and Congress and Oval Office by the collective balls.

    Funny, that.

  • DpM

    I see your point… it should be a short jump from a fire service you don’t pay on a case-by-case basis for to a health service you don’t pay on a case-by-case basis for… I guess there are just powerful people blocking it in the US. If that is true, anyone watching the situation unfold has to ask – are they blocking it because they believe it is not good for the US population or are they blocking it for their own self-interests? When this question is asked I believe that it is quite rare when you are able to say – “Politician X or Corporation Y is doing this because it is definitely for the best.”

    I also think it interesting to try and understand how performance related pay can drive behaviours. If the targets people are given are not well thought out, then incorrect behavioural traits can be encouraged… to the detriment of everyone.

    So… in the film, the UK GP (general practitioner) says he gets bonuses if he encourages people to stop smoking – this sounds good to me, dealing with smoking related disease may be more costly to the NHS in the UK in the long-run – most likely much more expensive than a couple of £grand bonus for said GP.

    But application of performance related pay to the Police for, an example, closing cases or bringing down crime figures in specific areas, could encourage the wrong behaviours – i.e. people are wrongly convicted to get the case closed or crime figures are ‘massaged’ to hide the real true story and enhance personal bonuses. I wonder how it could ever work in the Fire service… just pondering really. I believe Teachers do have an element of performance related pay – in the UK – and I know something was tried in the US (I read “Freakanomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner) and that described how teachers in the US helped their students get better grades so they achieved personal bonuses.

    So… performance related pay is generally a good thing I would say and it is a cornerstone of our capitalist society, i.e. if you do better / more then you get more. The mixing of performance related pay and ‘socialised medicine’ is a blending that I think can work… as described in the film… but only if we are able to trust the people involved. I would hope we can trust our doctors of course.

  • Wait a minute. Many of the problems Dpm describes as being associated with performance-based pay for policemen are already being encountered in modern-day police departments that are still subsidized by the local taxpayers and that don’t believe in performance-based pay.

    People aren’t necessarily more noble or more idealistic just because they work for the public sector any more than they’re necessarily greedy and evil just because they work for the private sector.

  • Allen

    Every day I like you more and more, MaryAnn.

    Specifically regarding Sicko, I rented the DVD the weekend after you initially posted your review and sat down with about five “non-documentary watching” guys and we were blown away. I think I, and when I say “I” I mean “Sicko” of course, had a significant impact on these fellows. It started a frank and hard discussion on America, humanity, priorities, and values.

    Thanks much for, I guess, reminding me that this movie had come out. I’d not seen a Michael Moore film before, I’m not much of a documentary watcher, but this was truly a life-changing event for the group I watched it with.

  • Allen

    (err, I should clarify that I rented the DVD the weekend after I read your review. Sorry!)

  • Hello,

    I liked the part about JFK.

  • MaryAnn

    Can you elaborate, Paula?

  • NorthernStar

    Sorry to drag up an old post, MaryAnn, but I saw this film yesterday as part of OU course I’m doing and I was pleased to find you’d blogged on it through a google search.

    The thread was very interesting (as was the documentary) and I wish I could pick up on so many points, but can’t given the amount of time that’s passed.

    However, there is one thing I feel compelled to reply to, even if no-one’s listening. Ken (and others) declared that healthcare isn’t a basic human right and yet…does the US Bill of Rights not clearly state No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law?

    The key word here is life and it it seems to me that being turned down for healthcare by insurance companies or denied an operation/treatment is in direct conflict with that.

    Healthcare is no less a tool for insuring your right to life, than democracy is in insuring your right to liberty.

  • MaryAnn

    Sorry to drag up an old post

    Not a problem. If I haven’t closed comments, everyone is welcome to post new comments.

    The key word here is life and it it seems to me that being turned down for healthcare by insurance companies or denied an operation/treatment is in direct conflict with that.

    Oh, you silly person. That clause only promises that you can be born — once you’re alive, you’re on your own, unless you were smart enough to be born rich.

  • NorthernStar

    Oh, you silly person. That clause only promises that you can be born —

    Shouldn’t maternity care at least be free then? ;o)

    This documentary has now ruined House, MD for me. When I watched it last night, all I kept thinking was “they’d never pay for that” and “no-one would approve that.”

    Seriously though, I watched this in the context of “should the NHS be privatised?” and I think all the politians who are discussing doing that should be forced to view this documentary.

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