Sunday, October 28, 2007


The first couple minutes of Sicko made me wince. A man is literally using a needle and thread to sew up a deep wound in his leg. No health and safety and you aren't conscious of anything anti-septic being used or a sterile (the man's cat sits on the sofa) environment. He couldn't afford to go to hospital so it was a case of DIY stitches and probably will take his chances if an infection develops.

Another man spoke about losing the tops of two of his fingers. His hospital gave him a choice, the middle finger would cost around $30,000 to re-attach and the ring finger would cost around $12,000. The man chose the ring finger as it was the cheaper option and all he could afford.

Welcome to America, the land of the free (if you can afford it) where nearly 50 million people are without health insurance while 18,000 die because of being uninsured. A rich country with third world health care.

Moore interviews people who have shafted by private healthcare providers, workers who left in disgust at what they were expected to do and medics who couldn't stomach rejecting patients for healthcare any longer just to make the company happy and to make a quick buck for themselves on the backs of misery and pain. I remember a scene in The Sopranos where Tony Soprano is in hospital where he's visited by the HMO to assess his condition. He tells her to f*ck off. I wondered how many Americans echoed that sentiment!

Healthcare (what an oxymoron) in the States is about profit. People have to jump many hurdles to get "approved" by a healthcare provider and even then it is never certain as there's "pre-existing conditions" and "deductables". A needless complicated system that even if you are certain to get insurance they'll find ways of rejecting you. I think it is highly possible that I wouldn't be granted health insurance if I lived in the States.

Two women both had sick children. One got her child to the hospital but was told by her healthcare provider that the hospital wasn't approved so she had to wait around for her daughter to be transferred. By the time she got to the right hospital her daughter died. The other woman in the film had a similar life threatening situation concerning her daughter. Her daughter survived. Why? She lives in France where her daughter was treated immediately without the rigmarole and extra worry of approved hospitals.

Words like obscene, grotesque, inhuman cannot describe the healthcare system in the States. Watching the American woman describe her dead daughter was unbearable, tragic, moving and shocking. The child's death was needless. And yet the CEOs of these corporations are rich beyond belief. Insurance and drug companies make a killing.

Grainy CCTV images show sick people being dumped in the gutter outside mission style run hospitals (the care you get it very basic) because the other hospital has discovered there's no insurance etc. Moore globe trots around America, Canada, UK, and France. All these countries have universal free healthcare (France is far far better than the one we have here).
Moore meets rescue workers involved in 9/11. Many of them have respiratory problems and have been abandoned by the government. They have to eke out a living on very low pay buying basic medical necessities at inflated prices. One woman pays $120 3 times a month for basic medicine when she could get the same drug in Cuba for around 5 cents. They cannot afford to get well. So.....where does Moore take them to get free universal healthcare...? Yes that land run by Satan...Cuba.
I like the cut and paste documentary style of Moore (it reminded me of the excellent Walmart: the high cost of low price). It isn't deeply analytical but Moore doesn't pull any punches. And that method can be highly efficient in putting your message across along with a dose of humour .There are couple of rather schmaltzy scenes but I forgive him. He makes a simple straightforward yet politically powerful case for universal health care (and lobbyists hate the film and are trying to spin that healthcare insurance is run by really fwiendly cuddly people). It is a damning indictment for private healthcare. There's an interview with Tony Benn who explains the history of the NHS in Britain.

But this should serve as a cautionary tale for us Brits as the likes of Kaiser Permanente are sticking their already bloated chops in the trough as they have been invited to discuss healthcare with New Labour. Around 14 of these healthcare companies have been commissioned by New Labour for buying healthcare for NHS patients.

Ivan Lewis, New Labour minister, has claimed that these companies can be trusted! One of these "trusted" companies, Unitedhealth, was fined $9.7m in 2004 for defrauding the US healthcare system. Gee, you can surely trust this lot with the family silver!

Private medicine is creeping into the health service. And there are charges to healthcare i.e. dentistry and trying to find an NHS dentist is bit like needle in a haystack! There are the inevitable pushes for charging by economists who preach "rationalisation"...

Yes, what a fresh and dandy idea, a two tier health care service where the poor get thrown in the gutter.....

Labels: ,