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DVD Review: SiCKO (Special Edition)

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Larry and Donna lost their house simply because Donna had cancer, and their health insurance didn't cover all of the expenses. Adam, on the other hand, was unemployed and without health insurance, so he decided to stitch up his large, infested knee wound with a basic needle and thread. Carol didn't have insurance either, so the hospital she went to kindly gave her a ride in a taxi to the local free clinic where she was dumped by the side of the road, confused, wearing only a hospital gown. John spent hours at Ground Zero in New York pulling out survivors and searching for bodies, and ended up with respiratory problems. Well, luckily he was a true American hero, so he got the help promised to him by the government, right? Not quite. Instead, he is struggling to pay his medical expenses, and isn't considered (at least, by those in the government giving out aid) a true hero because he wasn't on the payroll at the time he dug through asbestos and steel railings searching for horrifically mangled bodies.

I wish I could say that Michael Moore's most recent movie, SiCKO, is a hilarious romp through the kooky escapades of the American health system, but I found myself growing more and more angry as I watched this film and saw how the private health industry truly operates. Although SiCKO has its moments of comedy, the true comedy of the movie is how pathetic the private corporations (Humana, United Health Group, et cetera) choose stockholders over working-class Americans in terms of health care. It's so funny that I hurt myself in the process of laughing so much. Then I had to stop laughing, because I realized that gut-busting laughter wasn't covered under my current health plan.

As a filmmaker not afraid of controversy, Moore has cashed in on the growing fears and doubts surrounding America in the 21st Century. Unlike 2004's Fahrenheit 9/11, SiCKO deals with an issue everyone can relate to: the concerns over health care and the effects of a private health industry. No matter what your personal opinion is on whether or not the U.S. should create a publicly funded health system, SiCKO will at least show you that the current system is broken, and certainly not flawless.

SiCKO follows a large list of average Americans as they try to get health coverage for life-threatening ailments. Some succeed, but most find themselves stuck in a lengthy legal battle to get the coverage they need, or face financial difficulties. In the process, many of the people Moore follows continue to get sicker, and some even die. In true Moore fashion, SiCKO does all of this in an over-the-top way, and Moore shows us how the rest of the civilized world deals with health care. He even has the balls to put several 9/11 workers and others who need help on a boat headed to Cuba, so they can get the same health coverage that Guantanamo Bay prisoners get. The saddest part of all of this is that the 9/11 heroes get the red carpet treatment in, of all places, a Cuban hospital, instead of an American hospital (where they were denied care or left with hefty bills). In many ways, this is a stunt on Moore's part, but it shows exactly how backward the American system works.

The SiCKO DVD also has over eighty minutes of new material, including outtakes and extended interviews. Moore interviews with Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, where she says that even those with insurance may or may not be covered fully. Warren explains that more than half of families who file for bankruptcy do so because of health-care costs. Warren also says that seventy-five percent of these families actually had health insurance at the onset of the health problems. I'm not sure why Moore didn't use this interview in the full-length movie, but interviews like this make the DVD worthwhile. Also, Moore conducts an extended interview with Tony Benn, the UK Labour politician featured in SiCKO. The DVD also has more examples of Americans without health care, and of course, the examples are as shocking as expected.

The DVD version of Michael Moore's SiCKO will most likely re-ignite the passionate debate over the American health care system, just as it did when SiCKO went to cinemas across the country. One thing is for sure, Moore wants a different system, specifically one that takes corporate greed out of the equation. Hopefully, this may one day be a reality, but for now, watch SiCKO and decide for yourself what needs to be done to fix the American health care system.

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