- Lions Bay, British Columbia - With the healthcare reform debate still carrying some steam in the United States, I decided it was time to watch Michael Moore's film, "Sicko." The film itself looks at the many levels of the healthcare crisis in the United States, while fundamentally arguing that the American system needs a complete overhaul. Exactly what this overhaul is to include is not crystal clear, though he highlights the healthcare systems of Canada, France, Great Britain and Cuba as reference points.
As a Canadian, who has also lived abroad in France, it was of great interest to me to compare my impressions and experiences with Canadian and French healthcare with that of Moore, which he relays to his audience. Moore gives a flattering presentation of making both healthcare systems look highly appealing, though I don't know if it is an entirely accurate representation.
Nonetheless, a point that Moore hammers home is that the current American system is a mess and cannot continue limping to a slow and painful death. Moore attempts to show that healthcare as it is run in his four case-studies are not manifestations of communism; an unfortunately common assertion by those against universal healthcare in the United States. While I also possess American citizenship, I personally find this assertion frustrating and somewhat insulting, as I do not embrace the ideals, principles or philosophies of Karl Marx, nor do I enjoy being presumed to be a communist sympathizer. As a result, Moore did not have to work hard to convince me of this point.
With that aside, here in lies what I believe to be the greatest problem with Moore's film, and perhaps also in his other films: Moore rarely answers the challenges of his critics. While I believe he made several good points, he left out significant parts of the debate which must be discussed. Granted, in the interests of filmmaking, he cannot address every single aspect of the debate. But what is unfortunate in Moore's film, Sicko, is that I was left with an unsettling feeling, which was asking, "yes, but what is he not showing? What is he not saying?"
The most glaring example that I can recall from the film is when he is attempting to show that French families are not being taxed to death to support their healthcare system. He interviews a rather affluent-looking French family who boasts a monthly income of $8,000. Clearly the family is not having the government take every penny from them to subsidize the healthcare system. From this, the viewer is to form some conclusion, "Aha! So the Europeans are not be overtaxed like those propaganda monsters are claiming." If one were to simply form this conclusion and not ask any questions, then this would be a shame, as far as critical thinking goes in society. The unfortunate fact is that in France, the government is struggling to come to terms with massive deficits and reign in their budgets, since the current expenditures are far exceeding the government's income, pushing the French government closer and closer to the possibility of being faced with a Greek-like debt crisis, if the discrepancy is not resolved.
For this reason, I struggle to applaud Moore's film. If Moore would address tough questions like this in his film, while advocating for healthcare reform, I believe it would be a powerful film. Moore fails to draw Americans to the realisation that one must decide what his or her values are and at what costs they are willing to pay to realise those values. Is America prepared to face increased taxation to introduce a similar universal healthcare system like that in Canada, France, or Great Britain? Or is the idea of increased taxation merely the 800-lbs gorilla in the room that few in the American pro-universal healthcare camp are willing to be honest about?
Sicko had the potential to invigorate the debate with a strong challenge, but ends up only going halfway and in the end, it will convince few and largely preach to the choir. Rarely, the converted needs convincing of anything new.
Rating: 2.5/5 Sour Grapes