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In ‘Sicko’ Michael Moore Examines US Healthcare System

Filmmaker Michael Moore, known for his controversial documentaries on the American automobile industry, on gun violence, and on the Bush administration, now takes a stab at the U.S. health-care system in his new film "Sicko." VOA's Penelope Poulou has a review.

Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna. These are just a handful of the American health insurance companies that Michael Moore accuses of operating on greed and trampling on the needs of the American public.

Many film critics describe "Sicko" as a wickedly funny satire on the inadequacies of the American health care system.

One of its victims is Rick. “He sawed off the tops of two of his fingers,” Moore narrates. “The hospital gave him a choice. Re-attach the middle finger for $60,000 or do the ring finger for $12,000. Being a hopeless romantic, Rick chose the ring finger for the bargain price of 12 grand. The top of his middle finger now enjoys its new home in an Oregon landfill.”

Moore contends that the American health-care system not only excludes the 50 million uninsured but also consistently fails the 250 million insured Americans. One of them is Laura Barnum. She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance after a head-on car collision. The insurance did not pay for the ride.

"I don't know exactly when I was supposed to pre- approve it, you know, like after I gained consciousness in the car, before I got in the ambulance?" she wonders.

Others tell more heartwrenching stories of loved ones lost because their health insurance would not approve their surgery or chemotherapy. Some whistleblowers support these allegations.

One of them is Dr. Linda Peeno, former medical reviewer at Humana. “In the spring of 1987 as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would have saved his life and thus caused his death,” testifies Peeno. “In fact what I did was saved the company half a million dollars. For this."

“This is not only a broken system, this is a sick system,” says Moore.

Michael Moore advocates for a national health-care system. To prove that such a system would work, he goes to England, to France and to Cuba where there is universal health coverage.

“This guy broke his ankle, how much will it cost him?” asks Moore. “Will he have some huge bill when he's done?”
"Here at NHS [National Health System] everything is free,” is the reply.
Moore: "What did they charge you for that baby?
Father of the baby: "No, no, no, This is NHS. It is not America."

Once again, Moore creates a documentary that stirs controversy. Many applaud it as a nod to what they see as long-overdue universal health coverage. Others feel that the film's information is slanted. They argue that the European and Cuban healthcare systems are sluggish and outdated and that Moore portrays them through rose-tinted glasses.

At the movie premiere in Washington D.C., Michael Moore had the last word. "The French and the British have a very good system,” says Moore. “There are problems with them but they need to fund it properly and they need to take care of the problems. But it's certainly a hell of a lot better than here. And you'll never find a Frenchman [who has] been willing to give up his national health care card for one of our HMO cards. That's for sure."

Parts of the documentary are classic Moore showboating, such as taking a group of underinsured 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for medical treatment.

But "Sicko" is entertaining, thought provoking and is already a box office hit. It recently debuted in New York City to sold-out crowds.