Laughter best medicine in Moore’s ‘SiCKO’ |

Laughter best medicine in Moore’s ‘SiCKO’

Is your health care provider causing you severe pain in the neck? Is the burden of providing health-care coverage for your employees breaking your back? Does trying to figure out your drug benefits give you a migraine?

Prescription: Go see “SiCKO.” Treatment: Call your congressman. Cure: Vote.

Or move to France. They vote and protest for what they want over there, and their government listens. They are number one in health care. (We are 37th – just slightly ahead of Slovenia). The French smoke too much, drink too much, eat too much fatty foods… and they live longer and better than we do.

Michael Moore’s new documentary, “SiCKO,” is about the American health-care chaos. You can’t call it a system – unless you are referring to the way insurers and providers systematically deny needed care. “SiCKO” is not about the 50 million Americans who don’t have coverage. It’s about those who do and the horrors they encounter in getting that coverage to actually help them in an atmosphere where insurers and providers have free rein, thanks to the vast sums of money they channel to our representatives in Washington.

“SiCKO” crosses party lines and asks questions that are moral and practical. Questions that conservatives, liberals, Moore detractors and fans will all benefit from asking.

Like: “Who are we?” (as Americans). Is it patriotic to deny needed health care to individuals so that corporate profits can reach record highs? And: How did we end up with a situation where doctors working for health-care providers get bonuses based on care they deny to those who need it and have paid for it in good faith? And: Why are we the only industrialized nation in the world that fails to provide even basic health care to its citizens?

At a recent screening of “SiCKO” in Sacramento, the seats were sold out, the laughter was loud and long and the tears were for real people trapped in the real tragedy of the American health-care nightmare.

But if you are a big fan of those scenes where Michael Moore drags a sinful executive out of his evil empire office by his awful tie to embarrass him into repenting, you will be disappointed. This is not his usual white hats against the black hats routine.

We find ourselves in a new era where speaking to the issues and getting results are more important – and effective – than shooting at your opponents.

Barack Obama has attracted tremendous support with his unifying approach to problem solving. Al Gore’s success with getting the message out on global warming in “Inconvenient Truth” was also significant in terms of its lack of finger pointing. And now Michael Moore, who has succeeded in selling movies and stacking up enemies with his heavy handed, needling approach on a variety of issues, has matured in his tack, as well. He says we have to shift from the “Me” to the “We” mindset. While it wasn’t yet clear if he specifically includes Republicans in the “We,” he does make a convincing argument for a health-care system that is universally inclusive.

Moore’s approach with “SiCKO” is softer, more restrained and very effective in delivering his message: a starkly contrasting picture of how we Americans treat our fellow citizens compared to the way other nations treat theirs. He takes us to Canada, England, France and Cuba on a very amusing, eye-opening, and poignant health-care tour. But on this ride, Mr. Moore wisely lets the people speak for themselves. This is very powerful, as many of them are health-care workers who come forward to share their revealing stories from within the industry itself.

Defenders of the status quo may pick at this or that detail in this well-crafted, persuasive documentary. But the essential point is absolutely inescapable: The people of all other industrialized nations in the world are better off for having some kind of a system, the core goal of which is to care for its citizens and not the bottom line.

Die hard critics of Mr. Moore will say he has not addressed the downsides to the health services of those countries, but he actually goes from point to point, debunking the myths and propaganda that have been disseminated by those who profit sinfully from the ills of others.

He asks people waiting at a hospital in Canada how long they have been waiting – no one longer than an hour. Compare that to an ER unit here.

Later, he speaks to a doctor working for the British Health Service, who is making $200,000 per year, living in a million-dollar home and driving a late model Audi, to demonstrate that docs do well in these systems too.

There are too many myth-busting adventures to enumerate here. It’s better that you get informed on this issue by seeing “SiCKO” for yourself. You’ll laugh ’till it hurts. “SiCKO” is rated PG-13 and opens June 29.


Robert Smith is a performing artist and author and will be teaching Zen and the Art of Comedy Improv at the Center for the Arts this fall. His book by the same title will be out in 2008.

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