Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Michael Moore's Sicko


To celebrate our birthday, a friend and I went to see Sicko. I didn't have a clue what it was. She told me that it was a Michael Moore film; so I was game.

Michael Moore has a way of pulling you into his world from the beginning. First, there's a scene wherein many Senators walk into a room for a momentous event. The last person is our President George Bush. Above each person's head is a price tag. Some had figures of $300,000's, others $500,000's. The President had the $800,000+ price tag. These figures reflected the amount of money a health insurance lobby paid to the officials. The event in question was the President signing a bill for a national health that still doesn't cover every American.

Not too far from this scene, are photo clips of, then, President Richard Nixon and one of his closest staffmembers discussing, back in 1971, a national health plan. The voice overs are supposed taped conversations of Nixon getting schooled on this scheme where national health is administered by private health insurance companies. The point being, the insurance companies make more money when they identify as many pre-existing conditions that aren't covered by the plan as possible. Moore explains that this structure would evolve into present day HMOs.

Moore takes us to Canada, England, France and Cuba to show us how socialized medicine operates. The latest equipment, treatments and medicines are available. Physicians live very comfortable lives and France has physicians that will make house calls. One of Moore's relatives is a Canadian. He saw national health care as a necessary service for a nation's people and didn't equate their national health plan with being Socialist. He explained that he was a Conservative.

So what is the stigma around "socialized medicine" in America. As usual, it's a lot of social engineering--or media hype against it. Did you know that back in the 1960's Ronald Reagan, then riding high on Death Valley Days, was contracted to narrate an record album that denounced socialized medicine. The record was distributed to suburban ladies. They were asked to invite their usual Bridge card fellows to an afternoon of coffee and discussion. The record's content linked national health care program to socialism and communism enough times to turn Americans off to the idea. We must remember Senator McCarthy's search for Communists in high and low places had concluded not too long ago.

When we take the "Red Scare" out of the equation, we will see that many services are nationalized in the United States. There are public school teachers, firefighters and police departments. Can you imagine not having a coordination of curriculum, classroom practices and school administration acroos the United States. There are so some people today who are opposed to home schooling and charter schools.

What is fascinating about this movie, beyond the information, is Michael Moore's ability to travel. Again, he went to France, England, Canada and Cuba. In most instances, it was himself and a camera crew; other instances one other person was part of the travel party. When he went to Cuba, he had, maybe, nine people in tow. Where does he get the money for airfare and accommodations? Who does the advance work with the many people that are interviewed? He has a great organization.

Michael Moore is not in the best of health. Long shots of him reveal is portly, stooped frame and his turned in legs. I know genius comes in all forms so there's no discounting his talent. I just wonder, could he have been attended by one of these physicians? While in Cuba, he arranged for his entourage to be treated. Why not time for himself?

I did note that the ranking of nations' health care service placed the United States in the mid-30's. Two steps down was Cuba. Ironically, it was at the Havana Hospital--it's supposedly quite exclusive--that the nine Americans got diagnosed, treated and given aftercare instructions. One woman who had a severe respiratory condition found a medication she uses in a Havana pharmacy. Where she had to pay $120 per bottle at her local pharmacy, the Cuban pharmacy sold it for the equivalent of 5 US cents.

Sicko has many good points. I'm sure someone with more knowledege of this issue has detractions. Be that as it may, Michael Moore keeps the American public thinking and questioning.

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