Sicko is Michael Moore's latest documentary following his previous successes, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. In this one, he focuses on the problems of America's health care industry and what must be done to fix it.
In a nutshell, here are the main points made in the film:
- American's health care system is broken.
- Health care should be universal and free.
- Steps should be made to fix the system.
I tend to agree with all these points and glad that Moore produced his usual entertaining and educational fare to address these. It always seemed to me to be common sense that medical care that can fix illnesses and save lives should not have a price tag associated with it. And the fact that uninsured elderly, or even young people would go broke or lose their life savings after getting seriously sick means that something is wrong with the system. This became a personal issue for me recently after seeing my parents, as well as parents of friends get sick and not having any insurance or enough savings to cover for it. Michael Moore just points out what should be common sense, that there should be no price tag with saving lives and getting well.
I thought the best idea from the movie came from one thing the British doctor said in passing - that he gets incentives and bonuses if he is able to convince his patients to lower their blood pressure, or quit smoking, or do other preventive measures to improve their health. It was such a fine thought that probably won't get as much attention as the other more controversial parts in this film, but it is worth repeating: that there should be incentives on promoting good health and preventing future illnesses, rather than on fixing bad stuff after it occurs. If you ask me, the medical industry is too focused on "fix-its": fixing problems after they already occur. Perhaps because there is more money on curing ill patients, rather than making sure they improve their health so they don't get sick in the first place. I've got a lot more to rant about regarding this subject matter which I'll cover in a future post on the coffeefriday blog.
While I thought this documentary was a step in the right direction, and hopefully an instrument for reform, there were just too much social propaganda here masquerading as facts. I understand that Moore may want to exaggerate certain material to make a point, but I think he goes a bit too far in this one. For instance, he puts the health care systems of Canada, UK, and France on top of a pedestal and uses them as Utopian examples the way things should be. But he gives very little lip service to the negatives of their system. You get the impression that these countries have high quality health care that is totally free. It sounds too good to be true. The reality is that nothing is free and that everything has a cost. The cost is in higher taxes, longer waiting times, lower quality. To be fair, Moore does mention and refute these points in the movie, but gives so devotes so little time to the arguments against them, that it just felt like he was dictating to me what to think rather than letting me make my own judgment.
The part where he led the batch of 9/11 rescue workers on a boat trip to Guantanamo Bay, and later to Cuba turned me off. This was where I felt the movie stopped being a documentary and started becoming a work of fiction, or more of an opinion piece. While I acknowledge that this scene might have been staged to make a point about the broken nature of U.S. Health Care, it just got a bit too sensationalist for my tastes. The Cuba scenes portrayed the rescue workers as victims who were unable to help themselves, which does a big disservice to them as it reinforces their belief that they are victims who can only be helped by the government.
By the second half of the film, the rest of the moviegoers at the cinema I was in seemed to be totally brainwashed by everything they saw, judging from their reactions and sounds of agreement. There was loud applause at the end. While I felt initially that this was a good sign, that this would at least motivate people to make efforts to change the system, I was also a bit scared at how easily one could be misled by some of the one-sided arguments in Sicko.
So to summarize, I liked this movie, I'm glad it was made, and I think it will have a positive effect in making people think. Unfortunately I predict that it will influence people for the wrong reasons, leading us to think that free health care comes without any cost. I just wish it could have portrayed both sides of the argument (and if it comes a little biased towards Moore's side, that's ok), then let people make the decisions for themselves rather than dictating what they should think. On the positive side, there were a couple of gems in Sicko that were buried under the more sensationalist scenes, it's just too bad these ideas were not emphasized more:
- Life-saving medical care should be universal and free (even at the cost of higher taxes)
- More emphasis should be made on preventive medicine and health improvement, so people will need less medical care in the future.
- The medical industry needs to be less incentivized towards money.
Rating: 2/5 * *
Good intentions, but too one-sided in its message.