Making the Grades
Agree with him or not, Michael Moore is a filmmaker who courts controversy, sometimes to the point of overshadowing his work. In his latest movie, Sicko, production tactics and the ruckus surrounding them are causing the kind of uproar that can actually draw attention away from the real issue at hand.
Sicko is a look at the American health insurance business, and business it is with health insurance providers pulling in billions of dollars in profits. To begin with, Moore introduces a bevy of everyday citizens whose lives have been irrevocably affected by health care costs and insurance denials. From off camera, he assumes the role of tour guide and voice over, allowing the wounded to tell their story and establish the emotion in the movie. However when the dire situations of his subjects have been established, Moore---the writer, director and producer of the documentary--- moves on screen, ready to rescue the abandoned.
He does so by introducing his solution to the country's woesÉuniversal health care. And to prove his point, he travels to Canada, Great Britain and France interviewing beneficiaries of these socialized systems. Patients, doctors and other health care providers all get a chance to have their say.
However, in an effort to prove all is well in those systems, the filmmaker deftly sidesteps the point that while these programs may not require upfront payment from their participants, there is still a cost. Moore fails to actually divulge the astronomical taxes the French citizens pay for their extraordinary care. And while, hospital wait times might be minimal in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the fact is they are much, much longer in the booming cities of the province of Alberta where medical staff is strained to the limits. These incomplete representations raise questions about other possible inaccuracies in the film.
To make his point, he compares the worst in one country with the best in another. These unfair comparisons are a disservice to viewers who will likely be drawn to the word "free." Unfortunately, Moore's reluctance to lay out all the facts hampers what this director might do best -- spark intense discussion.
Brief depictions of an adult sewing his own sutures and infrequent strong language are among the film's content concerns. But the biggest problem is Moore's selective depiction of universal health care. At the very least, Sicko may encourage citizens to passionately debate the condition of their health care and find a prescription to resuscitate an ailing system.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Sicko.
Medical doctors often sit on the boards of health insurance companies. What impact might their employment requirements to save money have on their ability to uphold the code of medical ethics (Hippocratic oath) which doctors take? Read the code and its updated version at http://members.tripod.com/nktiuro/hippocra.h
How do countries differ in providing medical care for their citizens? What problems are inherent when big business is involved in basic care? What concerns may arise when government makes decisions for an entire population?
Throughout the film, Moore promotes the idea that universal health care if free. Is it really? What are the hidden costs of this system? What are the benefits of the program? Given all the facts, which system would you be more comfortable with?
Check out these sites for more information on French taxes: