Town Square

SiCKO: Was & Wasn't What I Expected

Original post made by Neighbor on Jul 7, 2007

I didn't expect brilliant. The movie was absolutely brilliant. Hilarious, touching, real. Superb storytelling. A fresh perspective on a story so many of us know all too well. So much better than his previous films. I will probably see it again.

I thought it would take the insurance industry to task, and it did, but the facts and examples he used were pretty safe and typical. It could have been far more critical and still stayed well within the realm of real. The people in the movie suffered the kinds of things friends, family, acquaintances have suffered in our system, pretty generalizable stories. Hard stuff but no histrionics. SiCKO was far more restrained than I would have ever expected given Moore's past movies. Moore clearly subverted his mocking instinct in order to get this right.

I was expecting more hard information on health care. The movie did not throw around statistics; this was no Inconvenient Truth. Instead, Moore chose to find stories that resonate with common experiences and frustrations, and juxtaposed them with stories in other places where the outcomes were happier because of readily available health care. He challenges us to imagine how we could do better.

Moore was especially creative in combating old myths. You have to see the movie to appreciate this -- even if you don't like Moore, the movie is worth seeing just for how cleverly he argues his points. When he asks a British politician how the UK ended up with a national health care system, the politician answers: democracy. DEMOCRACY. The politician points out that before the ascension of democracy in the UK (remember the monarchy?), only the privileged got good medical care. Democracy brought health care to everyone. Pow! I didn't see that one coming.

I've never seen a movie like this. A must see.


Posted by Patient, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 5:43 am

I have not seen the movie but I understand Moore paints a glowing picture of the British National Health system which is far from the truth. The National Health system in the U.K. is so overwhelmed that even if you are diagnosed with cancer and need immediate surgery you must go onto a waiting list and you may or may not be operated on sometime in the future. I know this for a fact because my own brother had to pay a private hospital and physician to get an immediate operation when he was diagnosed with cancer.

If you have private insurance in the U.K. you can get immediate attention, if you don't you must wait in line with everyone else. Would this be tolerated in the U.S. if we had a similar National Health system? I don't think so - you get what you pay for!!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 7:12 am

There will always be a rationing of a "free" commodity by friction. Make it too easy and hope you get there before it is all given away.
Bureaucracy is inherent in any system, and the millions of dollars of Katrina aid scammed proves bureaucracy is needed. As heart rendering as it may be to watch a patient have to chose which finger he can afford to save, what about the guy who loses both fingers because the month's surgery budget was used up on sex change operations and boob jobs?
Moore over-simplifies because Moore's audience is simple people.

Posted by Patient, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 10:06 am

Neighbor, have you ever stopped to think how the Brits pay for their National Health system. Well, its with very high taxes.

Britain has huge gas taxes, that is why the cost of gasoline is double what we pay, that gasoline tax goes to support their vaunted National Health system. If you think 8.1/4% sales tax is high, go to England and buy something with a value added tax (VTA) of 18%. That tax is put on at every stage of a products manufacture. That is why the cost of living in Europe is so much higher than the U.S.

If the U.S. had a National Health system like the U.K. it would serve the poor who would have to wait in line for treatment. The rest of us would continue to pay for private insurance just to make sure we got treatment when we needed it.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 11:12 am

The Brits have higher taxes because they have nationalized healthcare AND free college education, and a lot of other things. No one says it's perfect, it just is. Nothing wrong with pointing out the differences, and it IS only a two hour movie. There's only so much you can do in that format. (And the audience most in need of reaching isn't likely to commit to considering anything more than that.)

Moore isn't trying to get us to be the UK, he suggests we take what's good about elsewhere and do better. He has a fundamentally optimistic take on what Americans would do if we just decided we deserve better.

Moore interviewed a British doctor who had a nice car, a nice house, a good standard of living. He refrained from mentioning how that doctor got his education without the kind of crushing debt our young people incur here, which would have made his case a lot stronger with doctors here. In general, he COULD HAVE gone much further with all of the examples; he really did show a lot of restraint in this movie.

Walter, I respect what you have to say most of the time. Especially because of your middle paragraph, I would love to see your impressions AFTER you see the movie. This is a complex topic; Moore did a brilliant job with the limited format of a feature-length film.

Hey people -- GO SEE THE MOVIE, THEN post. It may or may not change your opinions, but you may find as I did that it's a lot different than you expect. Good food for thought.

Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 1:29 pm


Did Moore mention the medical apartheid system in Cuba? Or did he just refer to dissatisfied U.S. citizens getting top level care?

Good propaganda is best read by what it omits, not what it includes. Moore is an average paropagandist, perhaps a little better. Goebbels could have taught him a few tricks, but Moore is not at that level...yet.

Sounds like you took the bait, though.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Ultimately it gets down to triage - in Moore's world that would be either money or political connection.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Go see the movie first. I'd be interested in what you think. Especially Walter, I love your pithy, insightful comments. (Though I'm afraid you'll need to explain your last post, sorry, I didn't get it.)

There are over a dozen first-world advanced medical systems that I would vastly prefer to ours. The ones in the UK and Canada are not among them, even after seeing Moore's movie, I think we could do better. I hadn't considered Cuba except as a potential source of medical tourism for an operation I can't afford here (I have insurance).

Again, Moore's point was clearly not that we should turn into Cuba or the UK, but that we can do better. He gave some compelling examples of what better would be like. If you want to look at it this way, he's saying even in countries that have significant problems with poverty, even in war-torn Europe when people had nothing, they were still able to provide reasonable universal health care.

See the movie, then opine.

Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 3:29 pm


Oh Neighbor... you have really swallowed the bait. "See the movie". Goebbels would have had you for lunch.

Just argue the facts, Neighbor. It is hard. A simple movie will not suffice. Gullibility is not the answer. Too much is at stake.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Hi Jeremy,
If you want to start a thread to spout your own dogma about healthcare reform, be my guest. This thread is a movie review. Clearly, you haven't seen the movie and have no intention of seeing it. I really could care less if you don't see it, but please then stop speaking and attacking me from your position of ignorance.

I do, however, find Walter's comments interesting, pithy, and worthwhile. I am not worried about his gullibility in inviting him to leave his opinion after he has seen the film. Otherwise, perhaps he would like to join you in your own thread about health care?

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Lest I be misinterpreted, above I meant to express my confidence that Walter can hold his own and would not be damaged in any way by seeing a movie.

Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 4:37 pm

"I really could care less if you don't see it..."

Neighbor, then why did you say "Go see the movie?". I assume you believe in what it says. Yes? No? Either way, defend you points, and don't hide behind the cover of "This thread is a movie review".

Pretty lame, Neighbor.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 5:21 pm

In answer to your question, I suggested you go see the movie before you continue arguing on and on about something you are in total ignorance about. I started the thread to talk about the movie. You know, under the topic of "MOVIES".

Why exactly are you so threatened by the suggestion that you see a movie before expressing aggressive opinions about it that you would start attacking me? Are your beliefs so fragile that they cannot take confrontation with any outside ideas or any direct knowledge of the subject matter actually being discussed? See it if you like, don't see it if you don't like. I can see you are hoping to pick a fight, you might find more satisaction if you start a thread about it. Then you could pontificate at will, rather than attacking me for expressing my surprise at the actual content of a movie which was different than I expected.

If you decide to start a new thread, I suggest you start it under a topic other than "MOVIES" so that you aren't so confused that someone would suggest talking about the actual movie.

Posted by Peter, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 7, 2007 at 5:31 pm

On this and other threads, The Poster Known As Jeremy seems to fit this definition: A troll is someone who intentionally posts derogatory or otherwise inflammatory messages about sensitive topics in an established online community such as an online discussion forum to bait users into responding.

The standard response to trolls is to ignore them; when no one rises to their bait, they eventually pipe down.
Neighbor, I, too, don't always agree with Walter, but he certainly enlivens the forum and often educates.

Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Oh Neighbor...

You start something, then run for cover. Suppose you had started a thread under the title of "Book Reviews" and had praised "Mein Kampf", then I criticized you for effulsive praise of the book, then you said, "It is only a book review"?

Neighbor, you are out in left field by yourself on this one. Nowhere in your so-called "movie review" did you mention the word "propaganda". That is unforgiveable. Come on, Neighbor, yours was not a movie review, it was an advocacy piece. Just be honest about it.

Moore is a propaganist, period. You took the bait. It's that simple. I have already read many so-called 'facts' presented by Moore in his movie. I can challenge many of them, and I can, with an open heart, challenge his ommission of critical facts. You do not seem to be able (or willing) to do that.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I have not seen the movie either, though I most of what I've read is generally positive, including it facts, though some have pointed out omissions.

I think comparing Moore to Goebbels (and comparising praise for Moore's movie to praise for Hitler's writings) is quite extreme and I'm not sure why Jeremy ups the ante so. Implying that people who like Moore are like people who like Nazi's might have a point, but seems like driving a nail with sledge hammer to me. It inflames without informing the discussions.

Jeremy, Neighbor liked the movie and agreed with its message. You disagree, but instead of saying why and enlightening us all, you assert that Neighbor is gullible and attack him. I'd be much more interested in your thoughts on the movie or on how to pay for and provide healthcare.


Posted by Pragmatist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Whether or not you like Michael Moore (and I gather a lot of you rich neocons don't), you might want to give him credit for bringing an important topic to the forefront.

Patient, your points about the NHS simply underscore the need for a national system. Folks with good insurance can still use the private system and get immediate care. But the 40-50 million people who don't have insurance will have a way to access the system. Right now, they don't. Don't you think most would rather sit in a waiting room for a few hours, or wait a few months for treatment, than get nothing at all?

Moore isn't a scholarly documentarian, and doesn't pretend to be. His objective is to get people talking, and in this he's succeeded. Too bad that so many of you are so outraged by the messenger that you ignore the message. As Neighbor notes initially, the stories that the movie depicts are similar to those that many of us have encountered ourselves. There's no question that the health insurance industry is making huge profits to the detriment of the people allegedly being served as well as to the care providers whose hands are tied. If this isn't an issue worthy of our collective attention, what is?

As for affordability: just imagine taking the money that's been allocated to the Middle East and transferring that to the health care sector. We might even find that it's cheaper to save lives than to kill people.

Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 6:36 pm


I argue to the edge in order define a logical argument. Neighbor claimed it was only a "movie review" Nonsense. Both of us, Fred, realize this, or I read you wrong. It was an advocacy piece.

Castro has won international credibility via his 'vaunted' health care system. However, his system is an apartheid system...the top guys get the best care, except for foreigners who can pay cash (or act as props for movies (e.g. Moore). The non-elite in Cuba get very little, even though they are nominally covered by national health care. Cuba had one of the lowest infant mortaility rates in South America BEFORE the Castro revolution. Now, we hear that Castro has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in Latin America what's new?

There is a very serious medical problem that exists today, in Cuba, that did not exist before Castro: Third degree sunburn on those poor souls who decide to seek freedom by floating on inner tubes to get our of there. Did Moore's movie mention this (sometimes fatal) health issue? Oh...also shark bite (another very serious medical condition). Woops...forgot to mention drowning in the open ocean. Before Castro, all of these medical conditions were due to they are intentional, and part of Cuban internal policies. Why didn't Moore address these medical issues?

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Jeremy, I don't fully understand what you mean by "argue to the edge" but I'd prefer you not compare well-meaning posters to Nazi sympathizers or dupes. Saying the Cubans practice healthcare "apartheid" (an interesting mash-up of Cuban and South African tyranny) is also more inflammatory than informative in my view. More facts would be welcome though!

Below is the link to the Wikipedia article on Cuban Healthcare. It looks like it has been hailed as a big success by many before Moore, including life expectancy and infant mortality. It includes a section on "Criticisms" at the end (including your point Jeremy on Cuba's historical low infant mortality as well as the role of abortion in infant mortality stats).

Web Link
Healthcare in Cuba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The most interesting part of the the Cuba story (as I mildly understand it) is that they achieve their result on a shoestring - $251 per capita, 10% of UK spend according to the article (and of course an even smaller % of US spend). So resources are very very short, but they achieve a quite respectable result. It seems, not based on the movie but at least on this limited data, that they are doing something well. I'm not a fan of Castro, but it sounds like there is something to be learned there.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Peter, Thanks for your post. I agree with you about Walter. He seems a crusty, strong-willed person with definite opinions and a high standard for changing his mind, but a willingness to do that if engaged and offered compelling enough information. I don't always agree with Walter, but I see in his posts someone who thinks about things. I love that he can say so much in so few words.

Good to see you on this discussion, Fred. I also don't always agree with you, but I sometimes wonder if the Weekly should hire you as a moderator. I'd still love if this discussion could move back to the movie, with the general health system discussion going to a new thread. No one has posted a health reform discussion lately, it's probably a good time. Here's a bomb you all could start with: Newsweek just reported that the rate of maternal death from childbirth is 1 in 30,000 in Sweden, 1 in 2,500 in the U.S., and 1 in 7 (or maybe it was 1 in 9) in Iraq today. I refrain entirely from opinion here, but to respond, please: click on "Issues beyond palo alto" and start a thread. If it doesn't get dominated by trolls, I'll jump in.

I saw the movie with two friends. It did indeed generate discussion, though I think all of us needed a period of contemplation to think about what we had seen. As I said, it was not what I expected, nor what they expected. I wonder if Moore's detractors are going to see the movie even though it is so different than his other films; I am curious to know if the movie really does seem non-political across the spectrum as the reviews have expressed, or if that's just the movie reviewers. Certainly, the movie was a more mature film than his others. I'd be more inclined to continue seeing his films if they continue to mature like this.

Walter, I am truly interested in your opinion!

Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 8:57 pm


At least we are now arguing about health care, instead of a proxy, namely "movie review". Why does it take so long to get to the point in Palo Alto?

Since Moore's propaganda piece praised Cuba, I focused on Cuba. The term "apartheid" is not just something associated with South Africa. It also applies in a more generic sense. For instance (as related to Cuban medicine), see:

Web Link

Fred, you might want to read a little more deepely into your references, for instance:

"Complaints have arisen that foreign "health tourists" paying with dollars and senior Communist party officials receive a higher quality of care than Cuban citizens. Former leading Cuban neurosurgeon and dissident Dr Hilda Molina asserts that the central revolutionary objective of free, quality medical care for all has been eroded by Cuba's need for foreign currency. Molina says that following the economic collapse known in Cuba as the Special Period, the Cuban Government established mechanisms designed to turn the medical system into a profit-making enterprise. This creates an enormous disparity in the quality of healthcare services between foreigners and Cubans leading to a form of tourist apartheid"

Cuba also manipulates it medical resoruces in order to gain foreign political clout (oftetimes highly praised by the naive):

"An article in The Boston Globe, partially based on interviews with Cubans, argues that the massive export of doctors and other medical personal to Venezuela in exchange for oil has caused shortages in Cuba. Regarding Operación Milagro, "It's all the Venezuelans who need cataracts surgery first, and then the Cubans if there's any time left", said Georgina, 60, a retired Havana clerk."

Fred, as a free thinker, it doesn't bother me that Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, or that Moore made another piece of propaganda (e.g. "Sicko"); however it does bother me that so many people buy into such things.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Thanks Jeremy. I'm not sure why you are so focused on picking fights and putting down others; I wish you wouldn't. I did read the whole article including the sections you quote (I did point out the Criticisms section, no?).

While there are clearly lots of problems with Cuba, there also appear to be things that work. It's not a question of whether Cuba is "good" or "bad," it is whether we can usefully learn things from their model, esp in contrast to ours.

I'm not sure I'm getting much out of this exchange, and Neighbor correctly points out this thread is about the movie (which I have not even seen!), not Cuba. So I will be quiet now.