Wednesday, 31 October 2007


I made a rare trip to the cinema last night to see Michael Moore's new film on the topic of healthcare, 'Sicko'.

Of course, the film is intended for a general, not necessarily politically aware US audience. Of course, the presentation is polemical and slanted - Moore isn't exactly one for making a balanced documentary film. However, I still found it to be both effective and informative.

Anyone still defending the current US system of private insurance based 'healthcare' has a lot of explaining to do after this exposé. The US is the only Western country where the availability of medical treatment for everything except acute emergencies, from finger reattachment to diagnostic scans to inhalers, is dependent on the ability to pay thousands of dollars. I am sure there are patients whose insurance pays for their treatment as advertised, but many are denied treatment for any one of a number of reasons. Others receive treatment on the understanding that it will be paid for by their insurance - then the company refuses to pay.

Moore contrasts the US with Canada, the UK (including one hospital that is very local to me!) and France. Again, this being a polemical a one-sided view of each of these is shown, in which patients can walk into a GPs or hospital and receive free treatment - neglecting to mention the waiting lists, MRSA and clinical rationing familiar to us Brits. To a degree this was necessary for Moore to counter the anti-'socialized medicine' propaganda that Americans are fed in order to keep them accepting of the status quo, but a tiny bit of balance would have been good to see.

The last third of the film, in which three 9/11 rescue workers and several other patients failed by the US system were taken first to Guantanamo Bay ('the only place on US soil with universal healthcare - for "the evildoers"'), then to Castro's Cuba, is unsurprisingly the segment that draws the most headlines and excites the most criticism from Moore's opponents. Whether the care given to these American patients really was equivalent to the healthcare available to the average Cuban, I don't know. I suspect Moore's intention here (apart from generating publicity) was to shame the US system by comparison to this supposed third world socialist backwater - not to suggest that they should be emulated. It was surely heavily staged, and for me the film's central argument would have been as strong if not stronger without this.

Overall, whatever your political persuasion - but particularly if you are of a pro-free market bent, I recommend going to see 'Sicko' at the earliest opportunity.


john b said...

Sorry, this is the link

john b said...

Just by the by, the death rate from MRSA in the US is more than twice the UK rate: