Sicko: See It

We saw a sneak preview of Sicko last weekend, and maybe it was the festive atmosphere of seeing it along with a full theater of similarly minded people, but I have to admit it was far more entertaining and funny than I ever thought a documentary about health care could possibly be — even a Michael Moore film.

He has really perfected his own particular genre of gonzo-satiric-documentary making. Techniques like where he plays the faux skeptic and then lets the real people he’s visiting set him straight — letting them make the point that he wanted to make in the first place, of course — “next thing you’ll try to tell me ,” he says with mock surprise to a group of Americans living in France, “is that in France the government will even do my laundry for me if I need it!” And then the next scene is of the government-paid nanny for new mothers doing the family laundry.

Or digging up archive footage of some obscure hearing to satirize the absurdity of the situation he’s exposing — e.g., Bill Frist and various US military officers going on and on and on about how well-cared-for the Al Quaeda terrorists at Guantanamo Bay are, and how they receive state-of-the-art medical treatment — in contrast to Moore’s 9/11 heroes who can’t get any kind of medical treatment for their conditions.

There are some things I wish he wouldn’t have glossed over or that could have been qualified even a little bit (like the care they received in Cuba almost certainly was for propaganda purposes — which he could have acknowledged without weakening the drama and irony of the scene), but overall it’s a remarkably effective, entertaining and in many ways even universal and non-partisan movie.

After the show, everyone in our group had stories of their own to relate about their experiences with health care insurers. Like my own insurer (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota) that routinely denies every single one of my claims for a particular doctor — even though these visits have been preapproved by the insurer and I have the documentation to prove it — and then just as routinely pays them immediately after I go to the trouble of calling up and inquiring.

And I’m sure there are a lot of other people throughout America, of all stripes and political persuasions, who have similar and certainly much, much worse stories to tell about their health care insurers.

So maybe this will be Moore’s more popular, most universal movie so far. Only the CEOs of health insurance companies, with their multi-million dollar compensation packages and gold-plated headquarters buildings and hospitals — as well as, of course, their bought-and-paid-for politicians who leave Congress to become lobbyists after doing the industry’s bidding — have any cause to not like this movie.

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'What can I do?' - SiCKO

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Mark – Thanks for this review of Sicko! I’ve been trying to talk your father into going to see it and this may convince him.