What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


It doesn't take much to dislike Michael Moore. Friends and relatives of mine have expressed their dislike for the man, some to the point of hatred. These aren't people whom I would consider to be ultra-conservative or right wing on many accounts, but they are probably right of center on many things, like gun control, gay rights, fiscal matters, abortion, or immigration. They are mostly very reasonable people who have reasonable opinions on these issues, even if they are different than my own. They all characterize Moore as divisive, crazy, a blow-hard, an idiot, and a liar. They also might make fun of his weight, but I can forgive this criticism, as he is a large man, however irrelevant this may be. I suppose that my friends and family feel that his movies, (as well as his books, though I doubt many of them have read them) point to a hypocrisy in him as someone who has profited immensely while at the same time pointing out the greed in the world. People say that Michael Moore misrepresents people and situations to serve his point and disregard details that would rebut or discredit that point. One problem that people have with Moore is the method with which he tends to corner and put people in situations that do not allow them to accurately and fairly defend themselves against criticism, as he did with Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine. Many people have also pointed out that there are some inconsistencies and half-truths with Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, that discredit him and his messages.

I'm not going to debate whether or not facts were misrepresented in Bowling for Columbine or if Moore had everything 100% accurate with Fahrenheit 9/11. The fact is that the underlying motives for making these movies, I believe, are noble, and he goes about making his points and opinions in the best way he knows how. Yes, he makes the movies emotionally charged, as most Americans won't sit through a to the point bore fest about "just the facts" (Although, people sat through an Inconvenient Truth, but the same people generally hate that also). Yes, he has an agenda he is pushing and is using the media that is at his disposal to get his point across. These points are certainly his opinions which he is entitled to and he is entitled to present them in the most convincing way that he can. Does he lie? I don't believe he does. Does he present the side of an issue that best supports his point of view? Absolutely, he does. On the flip-side I think he does as good as any, if not better, at presenting the opposing view point of his own. I'm sure there are some who would take me to task on this, but it's just my own opinion.

SiCKO is no different than his other films on many levels. It attacks the super power alliance that is the corpogovernment amalgam in U.S. Politics. Who can dispute that corporate entities' financial ties with our dearly elected leaders as thick as the walls of Michael Moore's arteries. One thing that Moore does is blow the whistle on Democrats and Republicans, alike, as his new movie serves to prove.

Also, like his other movies, Moore is mainly concentrated on the middle-class's woes at the hands of afore mentioned entities and the misconceptions that we feed and perpetuate ourselves in our culture. In SiCKO, Moore interviews and case studies multiple people who are suffering from various diseases or illnesses who's claims have been denied for whatever reason. These people are hardworking, middle-class people who most would believe to be in good shape because they DO have health insurance, but are systematically denied it because they can't prove that they are owed it. Many of the people that are interviewed are former Health Care workers who have left the business because of the corruption and greed therein. They speak on how the business side of the health care industry relies on the ability for these companies to deny claims. They even found a woman whose claim was denied retroactively and she was forced to pay back the money she had been given for her doctor's bills due to the fact that she had failed to indicate a previous illness. The previous illness in question? A yeast infection!

Basically, what you have is a system that is presumably set in place to help people when they need to pay for doctors bills and medicine. You pay into a pool from which you can draw when you need it. It sounds like a great plan, except the reality is that the health care companies actively work to deny the claim instead of giving what is deserved. It is as if you bought a car and after making all the payments you have it repossessed because you forgot to sign the last page of the sales agreement.

What strikes me the most, however is that even when the system works, it serves to deplete the person of their livelihood. At the beginning of the movie Moore followed a couple in their 50s who have to move in with their 20 something daughter's family because they couldn't afford to keep their house. The husband had two heart attacks and then the wife contracted cancer. After co-pays and deductibles they were forced to sell their house and move in with their daughter's cramped basement. Moore follows people with all levels of wealth in other Westernized countries such as Canada, the U.K., and France. (Oh, and Cuba, but that's another matter, completely.) What he finds in each of these countries is that something such as heart attacks and cancer, which, along with the understandable fear and painful physical toll, would also prove to be a major financial burden here in the U.S., are not going to make any difference to the sick or injured person's pocketbook. It is completely free. They will pay nothing for any medical services they receive.

The major problems that the U.S. are given for why we don't want to move to universal health care such as they have in Canada or the U.K. are pretty flimsy. They say that the quality of the care will diminish and that the conditions of the medical facilities will falter if universal health care is implemented in the U.S. They also imagine the lives of doctors must be taken down a notch because, without people paying out the nose, how can doctors still be paid as much as American doctors.

SiCKO addresses all of these problems. Going to the countries themselves, Moore interviews people who make decent wages, own property and would be considered well off, even, who take advantage of Government run medica facilities. As one Canadian woman accurately states, there is always something to complain about, but at the end of the day they never have to wait at the E.R. longer than an hour and walk out without paying a dime. In some cases there is a cashier, but his job is to reimburse those with lower incomes their transportation costs. *RUBS EYES* Whaaa?!

Contrast that to my own experiences with the emergency room.

Last September I was in the Sterling High School auditorium finishing up sets and lights for a production of Romeo and Juliet. I was walking down the steps from the stage to the house floor when, in total darkness and looking at my remote lighting controller, I took a step thinking I was at the bottom of the steps. I wasn't. I turned my right ankle pretty badly and found that I couldn't put any weight on it. I went to the emergency room at 10:30 that night thinking that I had insurance and wouldn't have to pay for much more than a co-pay. Maybe $100, tops. It turns out that this was a workers comp issue and I wouldn't have to pay anything at all. I just had to fill out some forms when I got back to work and everything would be taken care of. At the emergency room itself, I waited for a good three hours before being x-rayed and then another hour or so to see a doctor. I was finally wrapped up, given some crutches and told that I owed $400 dollars. I didn't have that on me or in my checking account, at the time, so I somehow convinced the ER to let me pay $40 and go. When I got to school I filled out the paperwork, and was told everything would be taken care of by workers comp. In the next month or so I received a letter in the mail saying that the workers comp company wouldn't cover my expenses for some reason. I have made multiple phone calls to district employees, Board of Education people, and collecting agents who have all told me things would be taken care of, and yet I'm still receiving notices that I owe 500 plus dollars. Now, if this were a deductible or something like that, no one has told me this. As far as I've been told I shouldn't owe anything.

That's the efficiency of this system we have.

It is with this experience that I approached SiCKO, by Michael Moore. I'm insured, I work, I own a car, pay my bills and yet I'm being screwed by this system that wouldn't even be an issue in any other civilized society.

Speaking of civilized societies, SiCKO spends about the last 30 minutes of the film on a segment in a country that most Americans would categorize as third world. It's not exactly Ethiopia but Cuba is certainly a poor country with very little to show for itself in terms of resources or political power. The U.S. won't do business with Cuba because of the atrocious way their leader treats his own people and work to oppress their human rights. In terms of quality of life, people here in the U.S. would be considered on the bottom rung of society if we lived like those with the median level of income in Cuba. A trip to Cuba to receive medical attention would seem to be a ridiculous down grade. But, that's just what Moore and some of the people from the movie who have been denied coverage in the U.S. do. First, along with the lady who moved into her daughter's basement, three people who contracted illnesses while volunteering at the World Trade Center ground zero were brought to Guantanamo Bay to the prison medical facility there. This is where Al Qaeda's "enemy combatants" are kept, without a trial, but with plenty of free, quality health care. When they are turned away (for obvious reasons) they decide to check out the island country of Cuba, itself. They quickly and easily find a pharmacy where one woman finds the exact medication she buys in the U.S. for $120 for 5 cents. One of the most poignant moments of the film for me was when they leave the pharmacy this woman breaks down weeping at the price of the drug in Cuba. "It's just insulting" she says, as she revels in how much she has to pay in America for something that cost less than a candy bar in Cuba.

From the Pharmacy the team goes to a hospital where each of them are treated for free by the hospital staff. It is here that I begin to loose my own cool, a bit. Mr. Moore has done this to me in each of his films. Call me a sucker or easily manipulated or just maybe too sensitive, whatever, I begin to feel the pangs of sympathy welling up in my eyes and throat as these people who volunteered their time, their energy, their money, their bodies and their health at the World Trade Center are finally getting their due. And, not because the country that they so loved wanted to give it to them, but because they went around the system to a country that we, as a nation, are supposed to despise.

This part of the film where Moore's crew goes to Cuba is what I've heard take the brunt of the criticism from those who oppose it. I'll be the first to admit that SiCKO paints a pretty picture of Cuba and makes Fidel Castro seem like little more than a harmless grandpa. Anyone with a mind and some knowledge on Cuba at all knows that this man isn't a saint and has kept that country in his grip of power, without allowing many of the human rights that we take for granted. But, doesn't it say something when Castro, with all that he denies his people, grants them better health care than the U.S. government grants us? Shouldn't it piss us off that to get the quality medical treatment that Cubans get for free under an oppressive regime, we have to be wealthy? The moment that it all came crumbling down for me was when the Cuban doctor comforted the American, middle-class, professional woman who was crying in a hospital bed because she couldn't believe how much care she was getting, and for nothing. We've been taught to fear and loath this government. I just kept thinking to myself, over and over, "What is wrong with us? What is wrong with us?" tears rolling down the faces of Amanda and myself.

So, what is the answer. SiCKO director Michael Moore's solution seems to be a cross between civil disobedience and revolt. Depending on one's opinion of Moore, a person could take the message to mean that we should start electing better leaders or that we should stop being polite. Some might even think that Moore wants the people to take up arms and storm congress. I don't think that's what he wants. I think he wants people to pay attention. People don't bother worrying about health care and how much it costs and the damage that the system does to our well-being until they are the one's dishing out thousands of dollars of their savings so that a loved one can stay alive. It's not until they are the one's burying their child because the nearest hospital wouldn't take their HMO that people are going to wake up and take notice.

Moore, as with all of his movies is trying with SiCKO to encourage the people to practice their rights as the sovereign of our nation and stop being squeezed by corporations who know that we have to behave or else we won't make money to pay back them so that we can have health care that may or may not work anyway. Moore may take liberties in order to tell stories but he tells them well, and he gets his point across. I hope that people will see this movie with an open mind and see it for what it is. It's not a self aggrandizing diatribe to make himself some money. It's not some communist plot to take over the nation. It is about taking care of each other and treating people how we would hope to be treated if we were in the same spot.


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Sicko, but I've read many reviews.

One of the reasons we don't have unified free health care, is that "people don't want the government to make health decisions for them." But, right now it seems that we allow our insurance companies to make the decisions for us.

My best ER story was years and years ago ... Dwayne had been up all night with severe abdominal pain; about 6:30 he consented to having me take him to the hospital. I was thinking apendicitis, gall bladder, who knows. After a few hours of testing, we were assured that the pain would pass ... it was flatuance.

My insurance company denied the claim stating, "we don't pay for that diagnosis." Huh? So I asked them if it was my job to do the diagnosis before I consented to bring my husband to the emergency room? You decide to go to the hospital based on symptoms not diagnoses! Luckily, I only had to complain once and the company agreed to pay.

I'm ready to provide health care for all who need it and as soon as possible.

Jason said...

Wow. Have you been saving up all of your posting energy for this one? That was one massive article!

Anyway, I love Michael Moore. I think he brings to light a lot of issues and perspectives that are either latent or misunderstood, and I think that is evidenced in SiCKO more than any of his other films, although I admit I haven't seen the film yet. Does he always get all of his facts right? No. Is he sensationalistic? Of course. That's this point, and he gets enough right to completely prove his point.

Also, Wendy, great point. I hate how some people talk about how they don't want the government in their business, but they don't recognize that private industry is ruining their business, and health care is a perfect example. I completely believe that health care will be a more important issue than immigration, gay rights, and abortion in the 2008 election. It should be a wild ride.

Mary Lou said...

well I didn't Sicko, have not real opinion on Michael M. but I do want my med insurance to pay off when I need it, let me use my own doctors and in short be there for me when I need them.

I don't have any horror stories, my medical has always paid when I needed it to. Of course, I was paying also, but I didn't know any different.

Oh, and sorry Kyle, I only skimmed this article. Lots of words...:-/
But I appreciated the effort of words instead of just videos, I might add. :-)

Greg said...

Thanks for your comments, Kyle. I hope things are going well for yall.

Josephine said...

I won't lie. I didn't read the whole thing. I do, however, think you're a brilliant man. And hilarious. I got in a car accident a year and a half ago and was sent to the E.R. I was sent home an hour later with nothing but glass in my shorts and a couple scratches on my head, although we thought it would be worse (good thing it wasnt). The mile or so ride to the E.R., couple touches from a doctor, and some high class, preescription Neosporin totaled more than $400. I don't recall the actual price. It could have been $600 including a $400 ride to the hospital in an ambulance.