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Crying Through "Sicko"

A most enlightening tour of the American medical insurance scam. Buyer beware.
On July 4th I walked with my sister through the park by the Willamette river to Eugene's Valley River Center mall to see Michael Moore's new film "Sicko." Arriving at Regal Cinemas early, we were subjected to two right-wing propaganda ads against marijuana and for the National Guard. Both made me angry. I wondered if the theater owner had decided to stick it to us lefties.

Reviews of "Sicko" have not done justice to its huge emotional impact. This is a four handkerchief movie, and unfortunately I only took two. I was either crying or laughing through most of it. Moore is a master at making you feel what he wants you to feel, and deftly inserting leftist ideas into the American mind. You come out of the theater smiling. It's only later that the outrage at his intended target sets in.

Moore made the political decision to touch briefly on the plight of the uninsured, my main concern, and spend most of the movie on the struggles of the insured with their HMOs. I've been studying the health insurance issue for years, and I had no idea. I knew that there had been fights in the 1990s between HMOs and the insured over coverage, but I thought all that had been settled.

Nope. The HMOs are still at it, using all sorts of sneaky strategies to deny coverage. They will simply refuse to insure anyone with a long list of pre-existing conditions, although Moore doesn't mention that if you're an employee these exclusions don't apply after a certain waiting period. It used to be six months, as I recall.

But that doesn't settle it. The insurance company can still deny coverage later on the basis that you didn't declare some very minor illness when you filled out your application, or that you didn't know about an illness that a reasonable person would have known about.

They can also refuse to cover a treatment your doctor recommends if they consider it ineffective or "experimental," even it's commonly used.

In other words, anything to avoid paying up. How it is possible to maintain this system I don't know, except that the American middle class is so indifferent to politics and terminally passive. I think too that most people don't know what their insurance covers until they have to use it for a serious illness, and then it's too late. And of course you have to take whatever your employer gives you.

Moore points out that there is a fundamental conflict in privatized, for-profit medical insurance: the HMOs make a profit by denying care. He contrasts that with the single-payer, government run health care systems in other civilized countries. Because we have to pay the high administrative costs of insurance companies, including their profits and the high salaries of their CEOs, the U.S. spends much more per person on health care than other countries, with much poorer measured results in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. We are not getting our money's worth from our rickety, patchwork health care system.

Many of us are hoping that "Sicko" will start a serious debate about medical insurance in this country, pushing us towards a single-payer, universal health care solution. The issue is being felt in national and state politics, but so far the politicians have offered us what my parents would have called Rube Goldberg contraptions, complicated public-private hybrids that keep the insurance companies in the loop. (Goldberg was a cartoonist who drew complex, absurd machines.)

The Oregon legislature just passed SB 329, the "Healthy Oregon Act." Insofar as I can even understand it, the legislation would set up a voluntary medical insurance purchasing pool for people who are uninsured or on Medicaid, about 30 percent of the population. A lot of the details about benefits, financing, etc. are still vague. An appointed board is supposed to come up with a plan to present to the legislature in 2008, and it wouldn't go into effect until 2010.

What we really need is a nationalized single payer plan. We won't get it without a strong political push. Health care activists need to understand that whatever proposal they come up with must be simple enough for most people to understand.


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activists meeting 09.Jul.2007 13:11


July 18th: From Sicko to Sanity: United for Universal Healthcare

author: Lonnie

Jul 07, 2007 17:37

Filmmaker Michael Moore's latest work, "Sicko" is opening up a debate across the country about the health care crisis facing America. Seattle Area Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare workers and activists are joining forces to facilitate a panel discussion about how we can be part of a movement for a national healthcare plan that gives everyone the quality care they deserve. Please join the panelists for a lively discussion on this important issue!

From "Sicko" To Sanity: Doctors, Nurses, Caregivers and Activists Unite for Universal Healthcare
Wed. July 18, 7 PM
Seattle Central Community College, room BE 1110
Contact: Jesse Hagopian,  jesse_hagopian@yahoo.com, 206-962-1685


leaves out important aspects 11.Jul.2007 13:47


i saw Sicko and really liked it, but I was disappointed that he left out an important aspect of health care - the part where people need to take better care of themselves and corporations need to stop force feeding us their CRAP food, polluting our environments, etc.
And of course Michael Moore isn't actually the picture of good health.
We need more than universal health care, we need to stop corporate control over our lives as well as some personal responsibility and one of the best ways to take care of yourself is to put healthy things in your body.

Moore did a good job with this one! 11.Jul.2007 14:42


I thought Farenheit 911 was a cowardly piece that failed to talk about what really happened. I have never given Moore as much credit as the liberal Democrats who think he is great.

But "Sicko" is a masterful documentary that pushes all of the right buttons.

My favorite part was when he tied people's need for health care into corporate America's stranglehold on it's workforce. I don't know how many people I have met over the years who have said they would tell the man to take this job and shove it if they didn't have to have their health coverage for a sick relative or even themselves.

I believe that is a big part of why we are one of the last western countries without universal health care.

I loved it 11.Jul.2007 21:26


Thank you for your beautiful essay.
I am crazy over the reviews Willamette Week has given Sicko. Are they funded by Kaiser? I even heard someone call him a propogandist on KBOO this morning.
Poor America - so ignorant and so arrogant.

Essential viewing 17.Jul.2007 20:56


Having recently moved back from Europe, one of my main feelings during watching this film, in between tears of sorrow and anger, was 'what have I done?!?'. Sicko (for my money Moore's best film by miles) is a film that all Americans need to see. The question is 'what now?'. Surely this issue, as much as any other, deserves its Million Man March? With this film in the media, plus the Presidential debates going on, why is no one organising a demonstration in every major American city DEMANDING universal healthcare?