- Policy & Research
- About KHI
July 30, 2007
(Petty, a Topeka resident, is a former Democratic member of the Kansas Senate, where she was involved in various health issues. During her time in the Senate she served on a long-term care task force and also was ranking minority member on the Ways ' Means Committee.)
"Sicko" may be Michael Moore"s most controversial movie. Sicko also may be his most compelling, not because of answers it provides, but because of the questions it poses.
It is also compelling because of its cast of characters: the newspaper editor, who"s like our next door neighbor and files for bankruptcy because of a cancer crisis; the EMT who volunteers for the 9/11 rescue for weeks and now, with lung disease, has no insurance; the mother who sees her child die after one hospital refuses care, insisting she go to another. The stories could be the stories of our friends any day of the week.
The characters also include politicians: Nixon, Hillary, Bush and Kennedy. There is no forgiveness for the myopia of leaders of any party. There is Tom Benn, a member of the British Parliament, talking about the joy of democracy and England responding to health needs beginning in 1948 by building hospitals and health care services. And there is the Canadian politician, Tommy Douglas, who is described by an admiring and conservative countryman as single handedly changing the face of the Canadian health care system beginning with his own province of Saskatchewan. Douglas was called "the Father of Canadian Health Care". In the current cacophony of politics, the example of one person of principle making a difference is encouraging.
The stories are also compelling. It is predictable with all polemicists of either extreme that anecdotes with high contrast are used to make the point. Moore takes the EMT volunteer from the Twin Towers to Guantanamo Bay, where America is holding suspected terrorists from 9/11, because that is where there is state of the art health care for free. Moore interviews an American mom who received a four-day hospital observation for her child without cost because she lives in France and compares it to the American experience. Moore includes the confession of a physician made to Congress about her choice to be the good corporate doctor for an insurance company by denying a procedure to a man that cost him his life. A Cuban pharmacist supplies an American with an inhaler which costs $120 in America and 5 cents in Cuba. And Moore talks with a British doctor, employed by the National Health Service, who lives in a million dollar home, drives an Audi and makes $200,000 who states that he doesn"t have to check with an insurance company or finance department to provide the best care for any patient that comes to him.
The movie includes the key parties which can be part of solving the American health care problem, though people interviewed from other countries are skeptical that the USA can do it. There are ideas from Canada, Britain and France and from Americans who are living in those countries. Their ideas may not be our solutions, but we could learn from them since, among western, developed countries, our health-care statistics are less impressive.
The movie"s key question is, "Who are we?" As a country which raised barns and children with our neighbors, when did we become a nation of 'me' rather than "we"? The movie"s questions are "Who have we become and what we can do about it"? It also asks, "How fast can we solve this problem?" because it could affect me before we put the answers in place.