Reviewed by Rich Drees
Thematically, Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko recalls first film, 198-‘s Roger And Me. In both films, Moore is examining the lives of people whose lives are impacted by forces beyond their control and questions what is society’s responsibility towards these people. In Roger And Me, the closure of the automotive manufacturing plants that were the lifeblood of Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan economically devastated the town. Jobs were sent out of the country and General Motors increased its profits, leaving Moore to ask his audience where does a company’s responsibility towards its stockholders end and its responsibilities towards its employees begin. With Sicko, Moore examines the state of the American health care system and leaves us asking a very similar question- Why have corporate profits apparently overridden the concern for human lives and what can be done to change those priorities?
The answer for Moore is simple- A nationalized health care system that would provide full coverage to all Americans.
The obstacles towards such a system becoming a reality are not so simple to overcome.
While a majority of European countries have had national health care systems in place for several decades now, there has always been a strong resistance in America from the medical community and pharmaceutical industries for a similar plan. Moore questions this demonization of the idea of socialized health care, showing that while a half-century ago it was easy to invoke the spectral boogeyman of communism to keep the idea of national health care from gaining traction with the American public, it seems rather ludicrous now in the face of other socialized, taxpayer-funded services including fire, police, primary and secondary education and libraries.
Taking the arguments against a nationalized health care system that are usually proffered by heath insurance lobbyists, Moore travels to Canada France and England to see first hand how these arguments stack up against what he can find. Tongue-in-cheekily playing devil’s advocate, Moore feigns surprise and shock when what he finds flatly contradicts what health insurance industry spokespeople have been repeating for years. Americans living abroad report to him their surprise at the lack of long waits for treatment, contrary to one popular anti-socialized health care argument. Moore introduces us to a British doctor who has an income comparable to his United States counterpart and who states that British Doctors receive bonuses for getting their patients to make their lives healthier by doing things like giving up smoking or losing weight.
To be sure, Moore’s usual detractors and those with a vested in things remaining as they are will be out in force trying to dispute the things Moore presents here. And it may come as a surprise to some that Moore takes swipes at both sides of the political spectrum, especially in the form of calling out Hillary Clinton for first attempting to champion health care reform and then taking campaign contributions from the health insurance industry. But Moore’s purpose here is to be less polemic than his last film Fahrenheit 9/11. Instead, he makes us take a look at the kind of country we want to be and asks us if we truly measure up to that ideal. As he himself states in the film, “When we see a good idea from another country, we grab it. If they build a better car, we drive it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. So if they’ve come up with a better way to treat the sick, to teach their kids, to take care of their babies, to simply be good to each other, than what’s our problem? Why can’t we do that?”