Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, July 16, 2007


Yes, it seems like everybody who sees this movie has to do a post on it. OK, here goes:

This is by far Michael Moore’s best movie. It still has Moore’s trademark combination of humor and anger, but it’s much more of an emotional roller coaster. It almost rivals Crash or Hearts and Minds for pushing those emotional buttons.

We’re all aware that 45 million Americans (or whatever the number is) are without health insurance. As disgraceful as that is, the nightmares documented in Sicko are suffered by working Americans who HAVE health insurance. Crippling injuries, deaths and grief-stricken families are the result of one slippery move after another by HMOs.

There's a 100-page list of diseases that aren't covered, period. If that isn't enough, there's that trusty old standby, the “pre-existing condition,” and there's a huge number of treatments that aren't covered because they're “experimental.” Don’t worry; one way or another, your HMO will find a way not to cover you.

Even though the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are cranking up their smear campaigns against this movie, Sicko probably won't alienate as many conservatives as Moore’s other movies have. After all, Biblehumpers, rednecks and Iraqi-war supporters are just as likely as anyone else to get sick and go into bankruptcy because of medical expenses. You remember the expression that “a conservative is a liberal who just got mugged.” Well, what happens to a conservative who just got fucked over by his HMO?

Some of the most moving parts of the film are the interviews with HMO employees. A woman broke down crying when she was telling Moore about interviewing a couple who was applying for HMO coverage. The couple was ecstatic that they were finally going to have health insurance. The interviewer wasn’t allowed to tell them, but she knew — by some of the answers on their application form — that they would be denied, but they wouldn’t find out until they received a boilerplate denial letter in two weeks.

There was an interview with a former HMO employee whose job was to find a way — any way at all, whatever it took — to get money back from patients (or get them dropped by the HMO) after they had already had their treatment approved. His most common method was to do an excruciating background check on a patient until he found a minor ailment — no matter how insignificant — in the patient’s distant past. It could be a stubbed toe, a cold, a mild rash or any other condition which cured itself without treatment; anything. Then, if it turns out the patient hasn’t mentioned this “pre-existing condition” on the application form — Gotcha! They instantly lose their health coverage for failing to disclose their pre-existing condition.

At the end of the interview, this same HMO ex-employee said “people don’t fall through the cracks. We put the crack there and then we push them towards it.”

Think what you want about “socialized medicine,” or the Big Business-generated hysteria about “you don’t even get to choose your own doctor!” “You have to wait six months just to get into the doctor’s office!” But in countries that have universal health care — that’s every industrialized country in the world except us — the people love it and wouldn’t give it up for anything. Moore traveled all over Canada, France and England, interviewing local citizens and American expatriates. Not one of them echoed the rightwing spewbuckets back in the States. Everyone he talked to, regardless of income level or political views, was very happy with their health coverage and the quality of the care.

And now, for the sake of equality and fairness, here is an opposing view of Sicko.

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Blogger Leo said...

Tom, wonderful synopsis of the movie. "Sicko" was a fantastic and extemely important documentary and if you're like me you left the theater feeling furious, but also like someone had just removed the scales from your eyes. Thanks for drawing more attention to this important Moore work.

July 16, 2007 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Leo: Thanks. Yes, I definitely felt fury and anger when I left the theater, and also like somebody had just pulled the wool away from my eyes; like I'd been had but I won't get fooled again. I hope lots of people see this movie.

July 17, 2007 at 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess What? You're going to hear a lot from me on this one:

I'm always amazed at how the right winger scream about the Government running healthcare when the government runs THEIR health care plan (anybody ever seen Congress' plan?) Plus Government delivers mail, defends our borders and performs many services that no one would think of giving to someone else, yet we let an unregulated private Industry do our health care.

I also believe that with a Government based plan, at least the Government is accountable, no secret rate hikes, mysterious approval or denial process, everything would have to be open.

I keep hearing about the cost in taxes: When I compare with what I pay in taxes (because I'm not rich) and what I get compared to what a European pays look at what they get for a little more:

Mandatory Vacation (not in the US)
Health Care (nope)
Child Care (nope)
Complete Veterans Care (Yeah Right)
Free or Subsidized College (nada)
Pension (are you kidding?)

All American Ideals which were later railroaded, or improved upon by the other Western Nations

Compare their mortality rates, educational rates and quality of living to ours and you get the point.

They constantly scream about the wanting more HIB Visa's because of not enough American Professionals to fill them. I not only don't believe it, but I also wonder why nobody ever states the obvious-that we are always competing with countries that have subsidized college education?

These countries control their spending a little more (unlike guess who) so that these programs are funded and it isn't like you can just walk into Europe and say "I'm sick give me a health plan!"

Your Post mentions the elistist view about subsidizing people because of their bad lifestyles (like smoking, drinking, fast food.,) . Very few people can pass that test. Those who can, we all get old (look how we treat the seniors, especially in medication) we can all get run over by cars etc., and perfectly healthy people get Cancer and other problems. Women get pregnant and we do little for them.

I'm just really amazed that these people think Private Industry can do better, and at the same time resist any effort to regulate them.

When Hillary Clinton was 1st Lady she did her forum on Health care which the right wing went after her for and it was ruled a failure. Well one thing I noticed that so many people came to testify about the "Pre-existing condition" that some major companies (including mine) actually did away with it. Years later when the coast was clear they quietly brought it back


July 17, 2007 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Yeah, it's just like Moore said in the movie. Nobody thinks the library is socialism, or the fire dept. or police dept. or post office. And yeah, all these "individualistic" and "self-reliant" Congressmen who have their health care paid for by us, the taxpayers. I can't believe there isn't more outcry against that.

I like the part where that British doctor was saying he gets paid more if he treats more people and gives better care. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it was the exact opposite of our HMOs where they get higher salaries if they keep more people away from the doctor.

I'd rather pay taxes for "socialized medicine" than for a "defense" department that invades other countries and has troops stationed all over the world.

July 17, 2007 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger Political Realm said...

Exactly, Tom. There are plenty of services in the US that the government has proven itself capable of handling.
On principle alone, do we really believe that profit and not care should be the bottom line in health care? No!

July 17, 2007 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Political Realm: True, nobody complains about "socialism" when they're referring to schools, libraries or fire departments. If the police or fire departments acted like HMOs there'd be a revolt.

July 17, 2007 at 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Rhea said...

Your synopsis of Sicko was spot-on. If we don't all do something to change the American health care system, then we are pretty heartless.

July 17, 2007 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rhea: Thanks. That's true, if we keep this same rotten health care system, it says something about us as a people. As Michael Moore said in the movie, "who are we?"

July 17, 2007 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger FunkyTown Fighter said...

I'm with leo, wonderful synopsis! I tend to go with the theory that the sicker these bastards can keep you the happier they are! It's bullshit that in a country like ours we STILL have people without healthcare and the number of people homeless is ridiculous. I read an article recently where it was talking about Veterans benefits. It said there was a Vet. who was severly depressed and was told 2 different times to call the VA offices back because there were no available hospitals. Guess what? The guy never called back he committed suicide! Bastards! There is no excuse for their B.S.

July 17, 2007 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Thanks for the personal view you have given on one of the most important topics of our time.

July 17, 2007 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Funkytown Fighter: Thanks. You're right, doctors and HMO executives are paid and promoted according to how many people they turn away. When Moore was interviewing some doctors in England, some of them were saying they got paid more if they treated more patients and provided better care. What a concept. Our health care is disgraceful; and it's even worse for veterans. That's how conservatives "support the troops," by dropping them like a hot potato when they come home injured or disabled.

Larry: Thanks. Yes, this is a very important issue.

July 17, 2007 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure that I'll be boiling mad once I do. Out here on the Left Coast, simply obtaining health care, insured or not, is a trick.

July 17, 2007 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I haven't seen the film yet but am looking forward to it.

I'd love to see some polling data on how doctors would feel if they made a little less but didn't have to deal with insurance companies...

July 17, 2007 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Yup, trust me, you'll be boiling mad when you walk out of the theater after that movie.

J. Marquis: I suspect most doctors would be willing to make a little less in return for not dealing with insurance companies. Call me a pollyanna, but I even think they'd be motivated by the inner satisfaction of knowing they're curing people instead of turning them away on technicalities.

July 17, 2007 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

I haven't seen it as of yet... from what I'm hearing, just maybe I will take trip to the movies and watch it.

July 18, 2007 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: It's definitely worth seeing. I don't go to the movies very often; I usually just wait for the DVD to come out. But Sicko was a worthy exception.

July 18, 2007 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Mile High Pixie said...

I've heard similar things about Britain and Canada: that it takes months to get in for certan visits or treatments, that some people can't get seen for treatments because of their age or advanced condition, that the public treatment isn't as good as private care for which people pay more...and I ask: how is that different from what we have now? The folks I've talked to who have lived in Europe and used the medical care there felt it was top-notch and worth any taxes or waiting involved.

Tom, you mention paperwork. A physician I spoke to recently informed me that many emergency depts. here in Denver no longer file Medicare/Medicaid/public assistance paperwork to get reimbursed for treating those without health care. It's just not worth it. It costs less to swallow the cost of the treatment than it does to pay someone to jump through the red-tap hoops to get reimbursed. Also, it's easy for the right to lash out at the uninsured as "not deserving" because they're unemployed or lazy; they've never met my sister, who, as a college English professor, taught ten classes a semester at four different colleges for three years in order to make more than $30K a year...and all with no health care. Lazy, my ass.

July 18, 2007 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mile High Pixie: I'm sure those problems exist in Canada / England / France -- long delays, public treatment isn't as good as private, etc. Nothing is perfect, but I can't imagine those countries having the disgraceful treatment shown in Sicko, and reported regularly in the news.

And yes, the Right's main tactic is to just defame and slander anyone who doesn't have health insurance. Anyone who can't afford the health care they need is just a heroin-shooting parasite who lies around all day waiting for handouts.

July 18, 2007 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People I've talked to in Canada and Europe do say it can be tedious regarding paperwork and all but at least over there you know what to expect as to what can get approved and what generally can't. What the cost will be etc., There is no one in the Government sitting there looking for dirt or any other half-assed reason to deny you.

Many Canadian Companies do have private health plans to supplement their care - it's a benefit they use to stay competitive and attract the best employees.

My Canadian ex wife thought the Canadian system was better but also noted if you can get on to a really good American Plan you are doing great. Now note the term really good! How many of us get that?

She was really impressed how newer the procedures and equipment was down here - but again you have to be well insured to get access to that, those who are not......

She would shriek at the cost of drugs as opposed to Canada.

One note I would like to bring up on drugs. I worked at a Major Pharmaceutical Company for 15 years and the foreign (European and Canadian) regulatory firms are tougher on standards and in their inspections then our own FDA, so it burns me that conservatives say don't buy European and Canadian drugs because they are inferior that is just plain wrong.

Plus they never mention how many of our drug companies are Foreign owned. Hmmmm?

Moore interviewed a British Doctor who said he made a good living under their Health care plan, and that if he wanted 3 more cars and a bigger house he would move to the United States.

I'd like to hear a Conservative come up with a better plan, surely they can't support the status quo


July 18, 2007 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Yes, no doubt these problems (delays, paperwork) exist in countries with universal health care. But all in all I think those countries have a better approach than us.

I can't believe that smokescreen the drug companies are putting up about drugs not being safe if they're from one of them furrin countries. Aside from being a totally transparent bunch of shit, something's rotten in Denmark when a large corporation is suddenly concerned about consumer safety. Nobody should fall for that shit.

July 19, 2007 at 1:24 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

I left the movie feeling ashamed of our country. As Moore said, "who are we?"

And like you, Tom, I was angry about the wool they've put over our eyes about the "horrors" of free healthcare for all.

July 19, 2007 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Candace: Yup, this really says something us. "Who are we?" as Moore put it. As imperfect as Canadian and European health care is, it's gotta be preferable to our Third World system.

July 19, 2007 at 10:18 AM  

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