A review of ‘Sicko’

By Brad Grabs

For those who are not already convinced that the US health care system is badly broken, Michael Moore removes all doubt in his new movie “Sicko.” By highlighting numerous cases of outrageously inadequate treatment (or no treatment at all) among the nearly 50 million Americans who lack health insurance, “Sicko” calls for a drastic change in our health care system.

“Sicko” clearly demonstrates that there is one thing that consistently trumps the human need of quality health care in the US—profit. From politicians to drug companies to HMOs, profit is the compelling factor when it comes to making health care decisions. Concern for the lives and health of individual human beings is secondary. Describing this situation and her role in it brought tears to the eyes of one saleswoman hired to sell health insurance to those who were statistically a “good risk” and reject those with pre-existing conditions.

In a few instances, “Sicko” seems to be opportunistic and misleading. For example, two women are shown who were released from a hospital in Los Angeles and sent via cab to Skid Row by the hospital. This is a travesty, of course, but it has less to do with the healthcare system than it has to do with inadequate housing and services for the homeless.

To make his case for universal healthcare, Moore focuses on some of the worst cases of shoddy treatment in the US, and compares them to the best success stories in Canada, England, France, and Cuba. That’s not a fair comparison, of course, but by interviewing many people who are very satisfied with universal health care in other countries, Moore helps to dispel many of the myths and fears of “socialized” medicine.

As the praises of France’s healthcare system are sung, the viewer instinctively wonders, “How is all of this paid for?” Moore himself literally asks this question in the movie, but fails to answer it. By failing to address this difficult but critical issue, he opens himself up to charges of simple-minded utopian thinking by the naysayers of universal health care. Someone needs to acknowledge that universal healthcare comes with a price and call on ordinary people (especially those who currently do have health insurance) to be willing to pay it.

In typical Michael Moore style, “Sicko” exposes a festering wound that afflicts many people in our country. It is then left up to the viewers to seek a cure. Will they? Nearly 50 million people desperately hope so.

Brad Grabs is a member of the Shalom Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Kan.

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