I believe Sicko opens today nationwide, so be sure to see it over this long weekend.
Ari Melber responds to a criticism of the film from Dean Barnett. You remember Barnett; he’s the twit who thinks fertilized eggs are people, but soldiers aren’t, and of course women are merely major appliances. Barnett makes the knee-jerk assumption that Moore made the film to elect Democrats.
Melber points out that Moore probably is harder on Hillary Clinton than he is on George Bush in this film. I’ll let Melber continue (emphasis added) —
These are not the kind of stories that prime people to think of partisan affiliations or presidential campaigns. If anything, the genuine human struggles in â€œSickoâ€ raise questions about our society that run much deeper than what passes for political discourse today.
Why does such a rich nation let people suffer and die without health care? If we truly value the Americans who risked their lives on Sept. 11, why do some struggle without treatment for injuries they sustained while trying to keep us safe? And in the toughest challenge for American exceptionalists, why do so many other countries do a better job of providing care to all of their citizens? (Specifically, 36 countries, according to the World Health Organization.)
These questions probably wonâ€™t send people running from the theater to endorse a particular health care policy. Yet â€œSickoâ€ could drive the public to demand a realistic national debate on how to achieve quality care for all Americans, and to reject the recurring political attacks on the people working toward this admirable goal.
The recent personal attacks on Moore â€“ and other health care reformers, such as former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) â€“ are in line with the vacuous scare tactics that have stifled health care policy long before the Clinton administration attempted reform. The detractors typically donâ€™t offer solutions or engage reformersâ€™ ideas. They donâ€™t join the vital debate over how our public policy should value every human life. They just defend the status quo and launch personal attacks.
This brings us back to Mr. Barnettâ€™s Politico column. It offers a conservativeâ€™s supposed concern that the intricate politics of â€œSickoâ€ will backfire on Democrats (why would he care?). Then it recycles the canard that Edwards should not help the poor because he is wealthy. (By that logic, Americans with good health care shouldnâ€™t help anyone else, and cities with solid homeland security shouldnâ€™t collaborate to defend more vulnerable areas.)
But after 800 words, Mr. Barnett fails to say anything about health care policy, or whether the Sept. 11 rescue workers deserve assistance or whether the U.S. should even try to improve our world health rankings. The column, like so many attacks on health care reformers, ignores the issues and gloomily accepts Americaâ€™s dismal health care condition â€“ and then labels Moore as the pessimist. â€œSmart politicians would avoid him like the plague,â€ concludes Mr. Barnett.
Here itâ€™s painfully obvious that Mr. Barnett didnâ€™t see the movie or didnâ€™t get it. The issue is not how â€œsmart politiciansâ€ position themselves â€“ the public could not care less. The issue is what our nation can do about a health care crisis that leads to the needless suffering and death of our fellow citizens. They are the ones who have to avoid a real â€œplague,â€ since they canâ€™t count on decent treatment when they get sick.
I’ve read a number of reviews that complain Sicko is one-sided and that Moore doesn’t always explain where he gets his facts. To this I say, first, that the more you know about what’s going on in American health care, the more you realize the “other” side is indefensible. Second, Moore said very little that I hadn’t already learned in my own research. I can’t swear the film is without factual error, but overall the way it portrays U.S. healthcare is accurate. Moore may be guilty of oversimplifying — the Canadian and British health care systems do have some problems that aren’t discussed in the film. But Moore is also an entertainer. This is a theatrical film, not a presentation for policy wonks.
But most of the bad reviews I’ve read amount to sputtering defenses of the status quo and personal attacks on Michael Moore. What the critics never ever do is honestly address the problem of people who can’t get insurance, or our crumbling emergency rooms, or our dismal health data. They just make excuses.
Numerous congressional proposals have offered wider, less-expensive and more-reliable coverage than Americans receive from our current patchwork, employer-based system.
But no matter how workable, practical or desirable the proposals may be, the insurance industry reliably shoots them down. Armed with billions of dollars for political campaign contributions, spin doctors and attack ads, the industry has largely steered the nation’s health care debate for decades.
Mr. Moore evens things up a bit. He uses the same pop culture that brings you Paris Hilton and American Idol to offer something truly valuable: a vision of a better American health care system than the one we have.
The fact is that whatever truncated national discussion we’ve had about health care going back as far as I remember has been entirely one sided. It’s the health care industry saying we have the Best Health Care in the World, and if you don’t agree you must be a Communist. End of discussion.
He offers something else that most Americans never see: how easily anyone – including visitors – can access good public health care in Canada and Europe and how satisfied those country’s citizens are with their systems. Critics predictably charge Mr. Moore with sugar-coating his view of the other countries, particularly Cuba, where Fidel Castro’s government still affords superior care to favored Communist Party elites. Nevertheless, having witnessed health care in each of the countries Mr. Moore visits, I think he got it about right.
In Canada and Europe, customer satisfaction is high, despite the drawbacks. Defenders of our health care status quo come up with one horror story after another of long lines, waiting lists, rising costs or rationed care. But they don’t like to talk about the long lines, waiting lists, rising costs or rationed care that Americans face in our existing system. Mr. Moore’s movie does.
Nobody’s system is perfect. But despite the smear job that conservatives over here give to British health care, for example, stalwart conservatives over there aren’t mounting much of an effort to change it.
If the film does nothing else but get people to realize it doesn’t have to be this way, it has done its job.
Update: See Crooks & Liars about a hit piece on Sicko in the Los Angeles Times.