Review of Michael Moore’s New Film,”SiCKO”
By United Steel Workers International President Leo W. Gerard
Michael Moore, the activist author and filmmaker, has given every union member in the United States a great tool of advocacy for our health care agenda with his new movie, “SiCKO.” We should return that favor by attending the premiere of his movie June 29. Wear your USW gold and blue when you go.
With a compelling combination of humor and pathos, “SiCKO” documents how medical insurance companies act like cancer on this country’s health care system. This is what we want to eliminate with a national health care system.
Moore begins “SiCKO” by subjecting his viewers to excruciatingly painful insurance system failure scenes. They include an injured worker suturing up his own lacerated knee because he is one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance; a couple moving into a spare room in their daughter’s home after medical insurance co-payments for the husband’s three heart attacks and the wife’s cancer forced them into bankruptcy, the most common cause for personal bankruptcy today; and a young woman recounting the death of her 18-month-old baby because an ambulance took the critically ill girl to a hospital that refused to treat her because her insurance would not pay for services there.
Those disquieting scenes are thankfully interspersed with Moore’s often-comical antics in four countries with national health care: Canada, Britain, France and Cuba.
In Canada, he tools around in a golf cart with a conservative, who endorses the country’s national system of medicine and describes its creator, Tommy C. Douglas, as a Canadian hero, akin to George Washington or Abe Lincoln.
How could a conservative support socialized medicine, Moore asks the man. The conservative says it’s because not everyone can afford the medical services they need. The conservative, like Michael Moore and most of us, recognizes that health care is a human right, not some kind of privilege bestowed only on the rich or the lucky.
On his trip to Britain to investigate their national health care system, begun after World War II, Michael Moore searches a hospital for some department that will bill a patient. Finally, after numerous workers laugh at him, Moore discovers a cashier’s window. It turns out, however, money is dispensed from the window to patients, reimbursing them for public transit to the hospital.
Moore reports that his research shows that Canadian, British and French citizens live longer, healthier lives than Americans, and their infants are more likely to survive. The overhead costs for these health care systems are far less than America’s. In fact, the overhead for the one, already national system in America, Medicare, is 3 percent. It’s 30 percent for the insurance system. Apparently, Moore says, the government can do something right.
Moore ends up in Cuba after trying to take some American patients, including two 9-11 first responders who suffered lung injuries, to Guantanamo Bay to get some of that free health care American is dispensing to accused al Qaida war criminals imprisoned there.
After being refused entrance to the American portion of the island, Moore takes his patients to a Cuban hospital which provided free treatment to the foreigners, under the same procedures and circumstances that it gives care to Cuban citizens. The idea, again, was that medical treatment is a right of all humans, regardless of nationality, or religion or politics.
A Cuban firehouse conducted a ceremony to honor the first responders before they left because, the firemen said, they were all brothers and sisters. The Cubans said they wished they could have aided with the rescue on 9-11.
This kind of solidarity is essential for us to win a better health care system. The film advocates radical surgery on the American system to excise the insurance companies, which profit by denying coverage, treatments and pharmaceuticals, and by rescinding payments once made.
Michael Moore argues in “SiCKO” that this is not representative of American behavior. We show solidarity in crises. We rush to aid each other when there’s a tornado, a Katrina, a Virginia Tech. We bring food, build houses, give blood and clothes. We are generous. We are not the people of a stingy health care system. We have the right, the power and the opportunity to deliberately plan and build a health care system that would be fair and equitable and cover everyone as a human right. Let’s stand in solidarity for that.
We all know from our bargaining experiences how crucial it is to get health care off the table. That would eliminate much of the contentiousness in negotiations and make it much easier for American companies to compete in the global economy against nations that already provide national health care, including all of those in Western industrialized countries. We should act to radically reform the existing health care system that has resulted in 47 million uninsured Americans.
Make no mistake. Moore’s film advances our cause. It’s to our benefit to advance his film, which will play in only about 1,000 theaters its first weekend. The more people who clamor to get into those doors that first weekend, the more movie screens it will appear on the following week, and so on. The more popular the film, the more clear it will be to politicians that this issue must be addressed.
Again, I encourage you to go see the movie on opening night. Put on your USW cap or shirt when you go. Take your family and friends and neighbors. And take action outside the theatre, too. Stand in solidarity with your union brothers and sisters and Michael Moore to cure our SiCKO health care system.
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