Karen, Honey and I went to see Sicko yesterday along with another couple from church. Michael Moore’s latest offering documents the health care crisis that we have in America and I think that it’s his best work to date, but it made me feel literally sick.
I guess I’m a big crybaby, because I spent about half of the film in tears. Moore gave example after example of injustice in our country towards people who are unable to pay for health care. Some lost homes and jobs, but some lost lives. All because of greed on the part of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. These stories were human tragedies and I could almost feel their pain and despair.
The film contains security camera footage of an elderly woman being dropped off on the street after being discharged from the hospital. Thankfully, it was in front of a shelter and one of the employees spotted her wandering aimlessly outside in a hospital gown and barefoot. This was a glaring example of how we treat those who are unable to afford necessary treatment.
Moore covered the health care systems in Canada, Britain, France, and Cuba – all countries that provide complete coverage for their citizens. He didn’t just get the story from those citizens, but also from Americans living in those countries. It was amazing to see the level of services provided for free, often appearing to be better than what we have here.
The British have had national health care since the end of World War II, which surprised me. One very eloquent man that Moore interviewed said that Britons felt “if they could spend money to kill people, they could spend money to help people.” What a beautiful sentiment and how relative to today’s situation, where we spend billions of dollars to “protect” the very people that we neglect.
Canadians also have a wonderful system, with short wait times and the option of choosing which doctor you want to see. Many Canadians purchase health insurance before traveling to the U.S., out of fear that a medical emergency might occur while they are here.
France seems to have the best system of all, with free health care that is coupled with unlimited sick days and a minimum of 5 weeks of vacation each year. House calls by doctors are common and the government even pays someone to help new mothers adapt after going home from the hospital.
French doctors are even paid more by the government if their patients become more healthy. So, essentially, doctors are rewarded if patients stop smoking and exercise to lower their blood pressure. The concept of preventive medicine is almost unheard of in the United States, but makes sense as healthier patients would be less costly for the government.
In one of the slickest stunts I’ve seen in a documentary, Moore loaded up some of the ailing workers from the 9/11 tragedy and took them to Cuba by boat. These workers were some of the first to respond to the attack and spent hours trying to recover victims and save those who were trapped. Our government has turned its back on them, since they were members of volunteer firefighting organizations.
After seeing government reports of the excellent medical care being provided to suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Moore declared it the only place in the United States that has universal health care and decided to see if these responders could get necessary treatment for their ailments. Upon arriving outside Gitmo in a boat, he used a loudspeaker to declare that these were American citizens who needed the same medical care they were providing the “evil-doers”. It made for a good laugh, but was a genius use of sarcasm. They finally left after sirens began blaring and went to Havana, where they got free and meticulous medical care from compassionate and caring hospital staff.
On the way out of the theater, we paused with some others to share our opinions and Karen made the statement that our country is “rotting from within”. Unfortunately, I think she’s exactly right. Honey overheard another woman refer to the film as “un-American”, having apparently missed the whole point.
Our entire way of life is becoming about as un-American as it can possibly get. Our politicians run their campaigns using one-liners like “No child left behind” and “Standing with seniors”, but as long as we allow the weakest members of our society to suffer physically and financially, how can we possibly claim to believe in family values? As long as we live under the fear of getting sick and the burden of medical bills, how many of us can claim to be free? As long as the sick and dying are overlooked because of expense, how can we really claim to be Christians?
So, I’m glad Sicko made me sick. My hope is that it makes enough people sick that we will hold our politicians accountable for this humanitarian crisis that we call “health care”.