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The nation is about to have a conversation, an impressive achievement for a film.

Movie Review: Sicko

Michael Moore is back with another documentary that is sure to get the country involved in another debate, which, even if you vehemently disagree with his point of view, is much better than the usual passive experience of movies. Sicko will make you think, make you learn, and hopefully make you act.

Rather than focusing on Americans without health insurance that politicians usually talk about, Moore examines those who have it. He starts with a series of sad stories about the hardships people have had with insurance companies and then interviews those who have worked on the inside, allowing them to explain the tricks of the trade of denying coverage and saving the company money. Insurance companies are business so obviously profits are their motive, but how much is a human life worth? Would you understand if a company saved $500 as opposed to performing a test that could save your life? Your spouse’s? Your child’s?

The film looks at the U.S. government’s involvement in health care from Nixon's interest in Kaiser Permanente’s HMOs once he found out they were private enterprise to Hillary Clinton’s work as the chairwoman of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform and President Bush’s Medicare prescription-drug plan, whose main supporter, Congressman Billy Tauzin, went to work for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America the same day he left Congress.

Moore compares and contrasts the U.S. health care system with those of Canada, England, and France, all of whom come out better, but who is to say how accurate it is? Just because we don’t hear any complaints doesn’t mean there aren’t any, and I know from family experience that Canada has its flaws. However, it’s hard to argue, although surely some will, with the World Health Organization ranking the United States 37th in part due to our infant morality rate and life expectancy, placing us between Costa Rica and Slovenia. If our national basketball team were that bad, sports radio would be on fire with outrage.

Moore meets with people who have gotten sick from their volunteer work at Ground Zero, cleaning up Twin Towers debris and looking for survivors. These people are patriots who have severely damaged their health in the service of their country and only received lip service in exchange from the state and federal government. With many politicians boasting about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Moore takes these American heroes down to the detention center, reasoning it only fair that they receive health care as good as Al Qaeda gets.

Not surprisingly, they don’t get in, so they enter Cuba and go to a hospital. Moore asks that they be treated just as anyone else would, but considering there are cameras around, it’s likely that they received the best care available, and since we see no other Cuban hospital, there’s nothing to compare. Undercover cameras would have provided a more accurate picture. However with that being said, Moore absolutely should not have been able to find anyone who worked or volunteered at Ground Zero who needed his assistance. That fact is an absolute embarrassment to the nation.

As is the footage of a taxi dumping an old woman on Skid Row when a hospital decided her stay was up, unfortunately not an uncommon practice in Los Angeles. Again, hospitals are businesses, so they have to make money, but can’t a better way be found to treat people more humanely? Was it necessary for civil and criminal lawsuits and over a half million in penalties to get Kaiser to treat people better? Does a dollar really mean so much to some people?

However it’s not all tears and tragedy as Sicko has many humorous moments. An insurance company had agreed to give a young toddler who was losing hearing in both ears only one cochlear implant, but when her father wrote a letter claiming he was going to contact Michael Moore, they were somehow able to do both.

In Sicko, Moore presents his version of the story of the U.S. health care system. Even though every single person does the same, he will be chastised for it because some people have yet to realize that documentaries are op-ed pieces. Is everything presented in the film accurate and true as presented? Who knows, but while you shouldn’t trust everything Moore presents, that same standard should be applied to his detractors. Seek out information on your own and make your own decisions.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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