Wednesday, 7 November 2007


I've often criticised the National Health Service, but after seeing Michael Moore's film Sicko I'm bloody glad I have the NHS and not the horrific set-up that exists in America.

In the USA, 50 million people have no medical insurance whatever and those who do are frequently refused treatment for all sorts of bogus reasons, as the insurance companies make higher profits by denying as many claims as possible.

The idea of free universal health care is seen by the country's leaders as a communist conspiracy that threatens democratic freedoms and civilised values.

But what a payment-based system produces is thousands of people dying needlessly, a greatly increased risk of serious illness and shorter lifespans. Not to mention widespread debt, despair and destitution.

Moore interviews a middle-class couple who had high-earning jobs but ran up such heavy debts after heart attacks and cancer they had to sell their home and move into their daughter's spare room.

He shows video footage of a woman unable to pay for hospital treatment who was removed from the hospital by the insurance company and dumped on a city street.

A man who sliced off two fingertips on a circular saw was told an operation to sew back one fingertip would cost $60,000.

People with terminal illnesses needing vital treatments are refused payment on the grounds that the treatments are experimental, ineffective or inappropriate. Or that it was a pre-existing condition that invalidates the insurance.

Moore travels to Canada, the UK, France and Cuba, where he is gobsmacked by the high-quality care available to any citizen for free, simply to improve their quality of life.

You could describe the USA's health chaos as third-world standard, except that many third-world countries have far superior (and free) health services.

It's a shocking and shameful film, which I hope humiliates the USA right across the globe. Go see it.

Photo: Michael Moore interviews an NHS doctor


  1. Although as a Frenchman, i can tell you that he has seriously exaggerated the quality of the French system. Of course it is still incredibly better that the American one but Moore doesn't realy care about the truth as long as he can prove his point. Fair enough, because his enemies are generally mine too.

  2. That's interesting, as he talked to a whole bunch of Parisians and without exception they said French health care was excellent - new parents even had help with laundry, cooking and cleaning. Or maybe they were all hand-picked for their positive opinions?

  3. Well, no matter how great, good, bad or average a health care system is, people living in that system and receiving the services will of course have things to complain about. It is human nature.
    I bet if he had interviewed 500 people, more than half would have complained, in any country...
    Who is to say that he would have shown those who complained, if he is trying to prove a point he will show the ones where the services users are happy.
    Similarly I doubt he interviewed any of the rich people who have triple medical insurances and not a care in this world, happily living away in the US. :)
    I think he might have forgotten to go to Norway, they had one of the best health and education public service. Well, oh when I was there, this was so. Now I don't know how it is like but I imagine it wouldn't be so bad as it's still a social democratic country.

  4. I will endeavor to watch this film before the week is out. I've lost a bit of confidence in Moore though.....

  5. Gaye - Sure, some people will always complain about anything (ooh, I don't like the colour of them Pearly Gates) but when it comes to health, I think the complainers in the US are in a different league from the petty gripers in more enlightened countries. They really have something to be bitter about.

    Manuel - Lost confidence in him? Why? Is he wrong? Is the US health system really the best in the world? Am I missing something?

  6. I'm waiting for the dvd, Nick.
    Yes, the U.S. loves to point and say look how long the waits are, all while missing the point that a compassionate society makes health care a fundamental right for everyone.

  7. I've lived in a few places. The US has by far the best health care I have come across, (I haven't lived in Canada). However, this is true only if you have insurance. Even still the health care without insurance is vastly better than that in Ireland where I hail from. Vastly - and I know both my parents work in health care.

    I would be considered firmly middle class, and my job provides insurance. Thus my experience of the US system has been superb, from personal health issues, to the births of my children to one serious emergency room visit. My insurance will also cover a chiropractor, masseuse, homeopathy or acupuncture. However, I would not like to have done any of this without insurance.
    The insurance is a huge problem as they act as gatekeepers to care, and can refuse care. And you are screwed if you don't have a job.

    Moore takes the most egregious examples, (as he always does), although not wrong in these individual cases, his is not a balanced view. Showing Cuba's supposed great health care systems but not showing the cost in personal freedom that accompanies this system is a willful ommission

    I'm all for Universal Health care, the system in the US excludes way too many people who cannot afford insurance. However, new parents getting help with laundry etc. Thats fucking ridiculous. That's not a health issue. Providing good health screening to new children, and education to parents great, handouts to help you clean and cook paid for by other peoples taxes...not so good.

  8. No No i'm sure he's right (maybe left hehehe). It's just some of the inaccuracies from his previous movies and what have you. Maybe I should just stop watching Fox News.......that's a joke obviously.....I watch Sky News.....that's a joke too

  9. Medbh - you're right, everyone should be entitled to proper health care. How can those lucky enough to get it be so unconcerned about those who don't?

    John - Thanks a lot for that very different perspective. You seem to have had the complete opposite experience - fantastic health care all the way. Though as you say, you're insured. And clearly from the film some of those without insurance have appalling tales to tell. Interesting also that you think US health care is vastly better than Ireland - there have been plenty of scandalous stories from the Republic recently.

    Manuel - Well, there are bound to be some inaccuracies, any documentary would have a few. But are there enough to look seriously biassed?

  10. I think we all know Moore well enough by now to realise that he takes the best and worst-case scenarios to use in his films. It makes for convincing and effective viewing.

    I saw the film a while ago and ooohed, aaahed and recoiled in horror just like eveybody else in the audience.

  11. I saw this a while ago, Nick and am a great fan of Michael's, yes I know he maximizes impact and go could a little deeper than he should perhaps but the point is that 50 million are without coverage and those who do (and correct me if I'm wrong)were the focus of the film - there were denied health care on the flimsiest of excuses, a disoriented woman thrown out on the street in her hospital gown and ID removed by a criminal hospital, etc. etc.
    The whole point to me is that profit based health care is completely and utterly WRONG. Would we base fire and police services, etc on the PROFIT model?
    It is a basic basic human right. Like water (now being auctioned). This is what we get for allowing rampant military/industrial/insurance corps to run government. And "communism" is bandied about by these monolithic entities to intimade the deprived and downtrodden. Children without access to healthcare with a president veto-ing it? Communism looks mighty pretty.

  12. Red - That's it, best and worst-case scenarios. Don't they highlight inequalities better than run-of-the-mill experiences that don't reveal anything important?

    www - absolutely, profit's the driver here and screw human compassion. And while I wouldn't enthuse about some of the communist regimes that have existed, the basic principles of contributing what you can and giving people what they need can hardly be bettered.

  13. One of the worst things he twisted was in his first movie "Roger and Me" when he spent the whole movie trying to get an interview with the head of GM and said he couldn't.
    He did meet with him.
    Moore is like the liberal version of Fox News.
    He does pick good topics though

  14. Yes he gets a lot of criticism for misrepresentation, inaccuracy etc but he also rebuts a lot of those criticisms as unfounded, so it's hard to know just how accurate his films are. But as you say, he picks good topics. Exposing the plight of society's victims is okay by me.

  15. The US system is patently wrong, in that people without insurance are refused access to care. I think everybody's agreed on that one. But the standard of care, for those with insurance, is second to none. If you look at rates of cancer survival, for example, the US has one of the highest in the world. My aunt, who lives in Chicago had breast cancer 10 years ago, was treated and is fine now. My uncle was treated for prostate cancer, and he too is doing well. Obviously, they had good health insurance.

    I dread to think how either of them would be now if they had been in Ireland, even with VHI or BUPA coverage...

  16. That kind of echoes what John said about health care being fantastic if you're insured. If. And again, the Republic gets the thumbs down. When Bertie's finished collecting the brown envelopes, maybe he'll give a thought to health?