Review: 'SiCKO' Doesn't Offer Cure-All for Health Care

     Even though Americans are living longer than they ever have before, we’re all in trouble because our health care system is failing us. That’s Michael Moore’s “SiCKO” in a nutshell.


     In Moore’s world, some Americans live precariously with little or no health care, all politicians are on the pharmaceutical industry’s dole, the insurance companies are the root of all evil and the people in Canada, Western Europe and Cuba are immensely more civilized than Americans because they have government-run health care.


     How is that for oversimplifying a complex situation?


     By using a hodgepodge of anecdotal evidence and misleading information through humorous and emotional pleas, Moore makes that case. His solution to all these woes is socialized medicine in the United States, under the facade of universal health care.


     Despite a three-month build-up, accolades from mainstream media outlets and Moore’s stunt-filled antics to get publicity, the movie itself is anticlimactic. One would have to be completely naïve to not know what they are going to get when they sit down to watch a Michael Moore “documentary.”


     Moore narrates his documentary with a delivery that comes across like he is reading a children’s book during story hour at the public library – “See Dick run!  Run Dick run. See Spot. Bark Spot bark. See Jane. See Jane die because there was no universal health care system in the United States that would have paid for her kidney transplant.”


     It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for some of the hardship cases Moore illustrates.  If you don't feel for someone who sawed off fingers or lost a loved one because of a poor decision by insurance company and couldn’t get a lifesaving operation, then you’re not human.


     But in any nation – even those Moore celebrates – you would have to live under a rock to think there were not many unfortunate situations associated with health care – whether you’re insured or uninsured.


     One of Moore’s biggest targets is health insurers. “I always thought the health insurance companies were there to help us,” Moore said.  Did he really? On his Web site, one of the tenets he has to improve health care, aside from treating pharmaceutical manufacturers like a utility, is to abolish all private health insurers.


     And even though he depicts them as greedy and selfish, Moore doesn’t tell you that one of his biggest targets in the industry – Kaiser Permanente (not only in “SiCKO,” but also in “The Big One”) – is that it is a nonprofit organization.


     Perhaps his most dishonest attack is on the pharmaceutical industry. It is true that drugs are more expensive in the United States than other places around the world. And of course there is always the profit motive and Moore is certain we don’t forget, but he doesn’t tell why drugs are higher in the U.S. and downplays the enormous taxes that pay for drugs in other nations.


     Again his oversimplification suggested there is rampant corruption involving pharmaceutical manufacturers and price controls will help everyone get the prescription medication they need. But, he doesn’t say why our pharmaceutical industry is so advanced. The profit motive inspires ingenuity. It also doesn’t help that other nations are undermining the industry’s profit motive by forcing price controls that are causing our prices to go up.


     After discrediting and maligning everything about the American health care system imaginable, Moore parades around the world like he is Alexis De Tocqueville, just looking for fresh perspectives on how other countries handle health care. Of course, he finds his way to Canada, the United Kingdom and France where health care is viewed as a human right – like Americans view free speech or racial and gender equality.


     Moore has a deep fascination with France – so much so that at times one might think at times during “SiCKO” they were watching a commercial put out by the French Bureau of Tourism. That makes sense in Moore’s case because France is a nation that has had an on-again, off-again relationship with socialism.

     Moore’s final destination on his world tour is a stop in Cuba – one of the few remaining bastions of the failed form of government. He and several sick Americans board a boat from Miami and head to Cuba. First he hits viewers with his shenanigans of trying to get what he refers to as the best health care in United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where suspected enemy combatants are housed. Then Moore expects the viewer to believe the hostile dictatorial government of Cuba will just allow anyone to waltz right into Havana on a boat for a physical and to fill a few prescriptions.

     If that is indeed the case, it is ironic thousands of Cuban refugees make their way across the Florida Strait every year seeking asylum from the Cuban government. If Cuba has such great health care, one has to wonder why Michael Moore didn’t go to Cuba instead of enrolling in the famed $3,800 a week Pritikin weight-loss clinic in Aventura, Fla.

     At one point, Moore said, “I asked them to give us the same care they give their own Cuban citizens. No more, no less. And that’s what they did.”  Right.  In perhaps one of the most paradoxical twists of the entire movie, Moore interviews Dr. Aleida Guevara, daughter of the Marxist revolutionary responsible for untold deaths in Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba in 1959. Following in her father’s footsteps, Guevara condemned America; not for our capitalist ways, but for not providing universal health care.


     Admittedly, Moore has a knack for comedy and that really goes a long way in making this movie watchable – something a lot of documentaries lack. But even the least skeptical of “SiCKO” viewers can’t possibly think this movie will be the magic bullet that will improve health care in America.


     Luckily we don’t have across the board socialized health care in the United States. But we do in some sectors. Since Michael Moore has such confidence in the federal government running health care, perhaps he should have taken his film crew to a VA Hospital and seen how that sample of federally run health care functions compared to a private hospital.


     That’s what Americans can expect if Moore gets his way.