This film, though different from any in Moore’s repertoire, had his trademark elements of humor mixed with sadness, common throughout his work. In the humble opinion of this reviewer, and of the Republican sitting next to me, Sicko is Moore’s best documentary to date.
The film opens by showcasing the healthcare horror stories of several different Americans. One man was forced to decide which of two fingertips he lost in a saw accident he would have reattached due to the high cost of the procedure. Moore received thousands of emails relating such horror stories from within the American healthcare system, many coming from the workers that make their living as a part of it. If these stories were all Moore showcased, he would get his point across. But this is only the beginning of the story.
He first visits our friendly neighbors to the north in Canada, among them his aunt and uncle, who must go to Sear’s to get travel insurance in case anything happens to them while they visit the US. You see, in Canada all health expenses are covered by the government, even if the person affected is in another country. Moore consults a member of the Conservative Party of Canada who explains that for Canadians healthcare is not a political issue. Having people’s taxes go to healthcare doesn’t seem to bother anyone.
Much of the same is found in the universal coverage schemes of England and France. To disprove the myth about doctors in those countries not being able to live a comparable lifestyle to those in the US, we see a young UK doctor working as an employee of the government. This particular doctor drives a new Audi and lives in a $1 million house with his wife and son.
But the differences in France are even more dramatic. When women have just had a baby the government pays for a nanny to visit four hours a week to help the new mother. Doctors make house calls twenty-four hours a day. The doctor that came up with the idea said he was inspired by 24-hour plumbing service. For him, the convenience of 24-hour service shouldn’t stop at your drain. Moore also highlights laws mandating five weeks paid vacation for all employees, and yet more paid time off if someone is ill.
The people of these countries not only live longer than Americans, but also have lower rates of infant mortality and obesity. Everyone is covered.
In the United States, where nearly 50 million people are uninsured, the consequences of an inability to pay one’s hospital bill are the focus. Some people simply get dumped in front of shelters without any idea where they’re going. 9/11 rescue workers can’t afford the costs associated with ailments contracted in efforts during and after the disaster.
But the segment that has caused the most controversy is Moore’s expedition with a number of patients – rescue workers among them- to seek treatment in Cuba. The group initially heads to Guantanamo Bay. American soil on which al-Qaeda members receive better medical care than some Americans. Moore and his group are refused entry to the military base and move on to Havana, where all of the rescue workers are given the free treatment that they cannot afford in the United States. Essentially, Cuba takes better care of the heroes of 9/11 than we do.
The film has its political elements, but not many. It will speak to people on both sides of the aisle as an issue that affects us all. The United States has many socialized services already: libraries, schools, the postal service… We are living proof that privatized medicine is not the best practice. There is no reason Cuba should have a lower infant mortality rate than we do, and yet they do. Moore’s Sicko does precisely what it sets out to, show America how broken our healthcare system really is.
Sicko opens June 29th nationwide.
J.B. Goodrich is a member of Liberal College Kid.