Recently on the ‘VOTE OBAMA’ thread, Wickercat and I agreed to do a film exchange, as he wished for me to see Michael Moore‘s “Sicko”, and I wished for him to see Aaron Russo’s “America: Freedom to Fascism”. I have a DVD burner I figured out how to use after Wickercat sent me a copy of “Sicko”. I burned a copy for myself, burned a copy of ‘Freedom to Fascism’ for him, and there ya have it.
Though the respective responses to the films are intended for the two of us to share (Wickercat and I), rather than contacting each other using PMs, I figured this would be a better format for our responses as interested parties can follow the discussion and uninterested parties can tune out, never to enter the thread again. So, if you’d like to offer an opinion, feel free. Now on to the film review.
I went into this film with a natural bias of a strong dislike for Michael Moore due to his perversely inaccurate portrayal of firearm related business in “Bowling for Columbine”. I’ve seen one of his older films “The Big One” in economics my sophomore year of high school, and that film I found to be quite interesting, but “Bowling for Columbine” made me vow never pay to see one of his films again. I contemplated writing him a letter asking for a copy of “Fahrenheit 9/11” after it came out just because I was interested in the subject matter, even though I wouldn’t trust the facts. I never got around to that though. Keep in mind, even though I may dislike the guy, I’m not one of the Moore haters who spews off about films I haven’t even seen. Most of you may know I’m about as ardent a libertarian as they come. I respect free speech too much to allow stupid speech to negate it, so I try to keep it simple and precise. But I digress…
Taking notes as I watched the film, “Sicko” opened setting a tongue-in-cheek mood, and quickly began hitting emotional chords about families suffering through an illness and struggling to afford medical bills. I can’t blame Moore for jumping into emotional depths early, we all use it to portray our points of view. However, the use of emotion is something to remain aware of, as emotion is the most well intentioned cause of action absent of logic.
Regardless, the characters in the film we are shown have real problems, and real problems must be addressed. I wonder, why are these people uninsured? Was there something along the way that made it difficult to secure insurance? Moore will soon show us many legitimate reasons people would be unable to secure insurance, but not before something fishy caught my eye.
In the story of an older couple moving in with their son because they can’t afford their medical bills, most of the moving-in process is filmed. It talks about the emotional strain of having to change one’s lifestyle because of financial problems, and the burden it is on the adult children to take in their parents. Then we see a sort of ‘argument’ about the situation between the parents and children. The whole time I’m thinking, these people are having an minor argument in front of a camera crew. While it may not be scripted per say, they are aware they are on film, and they wouldn’t be saying anything they wouldn’t want to be seen. The exchange was not heated to the point that you’d imagine the parties would stop caring that they are on camera, but I detected a hint of formalist filmmaking. In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn’t really matter. Had the woman simply said that her children were uncomfortable with the situation and explained how, I wouldn’t have questioned it. Seeing what we’re led to believe is an impromptu argument doesn’t change the fact that the characters are feeling those ways, but it does say something about the director purposely finding a means which exemplifies it in the utmost way.
I began wondering what type of care these people would receive in Canada or Britain, and that question is answered towards the end of the film in a clever way. One of the most effective film techniques in “Sicko” comes in towards the end of this story. It talks about how one of the children of the older couple (or maybe it was their son in law) was going to be leaving town because, as a plumbing contractor with a slumping economy, he had to find work out of town. One of the children is asked where he is going to find work, and he responds, “Iraq.” That was a great way of showing how even the singular issue addressed in this film is greatly interconnected into the militaristic globalist ventures our government is forcing us into.
We’re then shown a couple talking about painkillers that cost $213. I think it may be cheaper to allow people to grow weed to ease pain. Not being a user myself, I don’t know it’s effects on pain killing, but I know its relatively harmless outside of minor behavioral changes a user may undergo. More on prescriptions later.
The next case we’re shown is a little girl who needs something called a ‘cochlear ear implant’. Supposedly her insurance company only paid for one ear and called the treatment ‘experimental’. We’re not told much about the case outside of that, but the father of the girl told the company Michael Moore was making a film and he’d try to get this case in it (in a manner of speaking) the insurance company quickly called back saying that they have approved both ears. While two ears may be what the girl needed, it wouldn’t have hurt Moore’s case to provide more background on the case. What if this procedure was experimental, and they were approving one ear on the terms of doing the other after the first was a success? Did the father ever push for this? What leads the company to believe the implant is experimental? These are questions I’d rather research than trust that the filmmaker omitted because they only further helped his case.
Now, it should say something that the threat of press coverage got both ears approved. All the man had to do was threaten a trial of public opinion, and he got what he wanted from his company. I must credit the film for being a watchdog for the consumer. My question is, will it Moore continue to be a watchdog when no one is looking?
Moore begins posting a list of conditions which supposedly make you ineligible for health coverage. The list is so long he eventually stops rolling it. I don’t believe all of the conditions he listed make you totally ineligible, though they do make it harder to get insurance and will probably raise your premiums. I know people who have some of these conditions (autism and diabetes were listed) who have health insurance. It’s misleading to present it as an outright exclusion.
The clip of the man hired to look for pre-existing conditions as a reason to deny coverage was interesting. His job could have easily been portrayed as that of a investigator, and it wouldn’t have sounded so vile. While some companies may be more ruthless than others, investigation of fraud is not in itself a bad thing. You weren’t shown it in this film, but people do try and pull fast ones on insurance companies every so often, and its unfortunate because seeking needless treatment only raises everyone else’s rates, making premiums higher, and creating a situation in which people who need treatment are unable to get it because of high premiums. My theory that government intervention in the field exacerbates the problem was given further weight by this man’s statement that in some states, there are laws which make it easier or insurance companies to deny treatment if they can find that you had a symptom of a disease before getting the policy even without being diagnosed. This is a condition that would not be naturally occurring in a freer market, but because of government regulation, insurance companies have one-up on their clients.
Moore goes on to explain what each country spends on patients each year (he says less in other countries). Keep in mind, here we’re dealing with exchange rates, different market rules and less restrictive embargos. Later he will go into pharmacies and show us that any prescription fill in Britain is no more than 6-7 pounds, if memory serves me correctly. This price is subsidized, so people are still paying for it, only the money is taken from them before they see it so they don’t know any better. Also, prescriptions may be cheaper in these countries because they don’t have such restrictive federal agencies (which are Unconstitutional anyways) that establish pharmaceutical monopolies and mandate what drugs we take and where they can come from. Also, more experimental alternatives may be allowed in some of these countries, ultimately making more choices available to a doctor for treatment. And the cheapest things, such a marijuana, are not available because the government is able to make more from it by keeping it illegal, which jacks the street value an estimated 300-500%, and with the federal government seizing an estimated 10% of it before it hit’s the streets, that’s a 30-50% tax, more than they’d ever get if it was legally sold. Also, we have the most litigious society on Earth. For every million dollar case of a teenager committing suicide on antidepressants, every old person who has a heart attack on Viagra, you’ll see your prescription costs shooting up. Ending lawsuit abuse would end a good number of economic problems in the US, as trial lawyers are leaches on the system just looking for a vein to sink their fangs into and make it rich. Unfortunately, they occasionally find one. Don’t get me wrong, we need civil lawsuits to prevent abuse from companies, but we need t prescribe by law what violations of terms of conditions are, not leave it up to a simple majority of jurors to set an unlimited dollar value on a case. But this is an issue I could go off on, so I’ll cut myself off here. If it comes up again, I wrote a speech on it for Public Speaking 2 years ago I can dig up and post, all about how tort law impacts the economy. Oh yeah, and medical malpractice insurance for OBGYNs runs around 200,000. A childbirth is a relatively simple procedure. Yet doctors get sued often when a child is born retarded, even if the delivery had nothing to do with it. The rates of cerebral palsy since the 70s, I believe it was has stayed the same, yet doctors have been performing almost 3x (I’d have to double check) as many C-Sections. This leads one to believe cerebral palsy is not always caused by a failure to perform a C-section, yet for the hundreds of doctors bankrupted by lawsuits over this, they’re never be recompensated. Their lives were financially destroyed, and evidence is starting suggest they may have done nothing wrong. Ron Paul supposedly offered his patients doctor supervised births without medical malpractice insurance, making the rates he could charge far lower and affordable to people with our without insurance. Some states are mandated doctor delivery and are trying to ban midwives. People need to be watchdogs of the gov’t and insurance companies to ensure midwives can be used as safe and inexpensive alternatives to hospital deliveries.
By this point in the film, I’m continuing to see a reoccurring misconception that these government services are free. That’s blatantly wrong, but even considering this, are the services any cheaper? Moore eventually interviews a British doctor who is of course living comfortably. This should come as no surprise to anyone because if people were not compensated for the vast amount of time and energy it takes to become a doctor, they would not bother pursuing it. It is the same reason involuntary communism fails, if all are valued the same amount, than all will work as hard as the laziest person. There must be incentives for utilizing skills others do not have, thus doctors are paid amply. While the gov’t doctor of Britain makes less money than an American doctor may, this doesn’t mean all American doctors live secluded lives of luxury and vanity. The few doctors I know personally here in New Hampshire are wealthy, but also incredibly generous and charitable, and do not live far beyond their means, or at least what society deems our means to be.
We’re shown the story of Tracy, the husband of a worker at a company that offers health insurance. Tracy has a form of cancer which is very deadly but in some cases has been treatable. He is denied coverage because of the extensive nature of his cancer, and dies weeks later. We’re led to believe the procedure may have saved his life, though I’m not going to say whether it would have one way or another. Though I am saddened to hear stories like this, not only do we not know if he would have been saved by this procedure, but also it’s not assured that any other country would have approved such an expensive procedure for someone so ill as well. There have been cases of terminally ill people in Canada simply offered hospice care rather than having the ability to fight for their life if they chose. An unfortunate reality is that people will have between 70-90% of their total health care expenses in the last three years of their life. Because I believe an individual has the right to make that decision for themselves, I’m not going to endorse a system which makes those decisions for people. According to a study of “Sicko” by CNN, an estimated 10-15% of people living in countries with socialized medicine will purchase additional health coverage. If anyone saw Chuck on tour for Rant, he read a fan letter about a guy from Canada who had a weight problem, and if I remember correctly, the Canadian government wouldn’t pay for his cosmetic surgery to remove the excess skin from after the weight loss. He could have possibly found an insurance plan to cover this, but instead he had to work a night job or something to pay for the operation.
…Found a you tube vid of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CjOA2b3mjc
The recurring discourager of the socialized medicine system is that all the complaints we have come about because of some government intervention. HMOs are a government creation (Moore has audio of Nixon affirming it). The VA Hospitals are notorious for their inequities compared to private American hospitals. Government fails us in their intervention into the health industry that only drives up costs and serves the few. Moore praises the post office, which operates inefficiently, with wasted business space and long waiting lines just to mail a package or buy stamps. If you had to wait that long at Target, you would go to Wal-Mart. The post office is a state-established monopoly. The creation of Fed-Ex and UPS forced their service to be more efficient. As for police, and fire departments, not every town has and needs them. We did not have much use for police and fire departments when we had state militias fulfilling these enforcement duties, and they were forced to operate in a Constitutional manner. If you want efficiency, let the people (militia) police their own towns. You’d see an end to traffic enforcement that has become a extortion racket, and most victimless crime enforcement. But that gets into another issue…point being all these things were working well privatized before government stepped in. While there are positive and negative factors to either way, I don’t condone the use of force on people ‘for their own good’. That’s what education is for, teach me what is in my best interest, and as an adult, I shall make the decision for myself. Government is simply a force applied to me to do something I may not otherwise do. Why not operate peacefully?
At 0:39:00, we’re shown a federal bill that protects insurance agencies and pharmaceutical companies, which is of course, Unconstitutional. I notice Moore never uses the Constitution for his arguments, just management vs. mismanagement, and what he views each item as.
0:43:00, A Canadian talks about how at their hospitals you don’t have to bring a checkbook, and you don’t have to worry about payment, it’s ‘stress free’. I’d argue trying to make ends meet with an overtaxed paycheck causes a great amount of stress. Just because you don’t see the money you were supposed to make doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.
Next Moore visits his family in Canada who were to visit him, but refused to go into America without buying health insurance for the day or two they’d be there. This is obviously intentional for the film, either that or these people are ill with paranoia. In the event of a life-threatening ailment, they’d be covered under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (42 USCS, 1395dd), which requires emergency rooms to treat people whose lives require immediate medical care. I wonder the liability of the hospital that refused treatment to the little girl later in the film, who told the mother she had to take her child to another hospital. That was a clear violation of this act. I don’t know what came of the case, but perhaps the mother sued the hospital. I would have. It wouldn’t have helped Moore’s point of view either way had no action been taken or had the mother received a large settlement from the hospital because the emotional sting either way is that the child died.
55 minutes in, there is a ‘free’ tirade. I’m tiring of the misleading label being used for this system. By 1:17:00 in my notes, I’ve written that so far every opinion in the film has been either opposed to the United States system, promotional of foreign socialized systems, or both.
Eventually we reach the scariest clip. Government financed child care. This blows my mind. I shutter to think of the number of times I’ve called a law establishment of the nanny state. France quite literally has that. I can’t believe that they actually force their citizens to pay for government workers to do each others laundry. That is far scarier than it is funny.
Further exemplified that democracy is an evil thing is the concept that France centrally declares what days are ‘work’ days and what days are holidays. While I’ll admit they are generous to the people with vacation, that power and control is evil. The people rally in the streets for what days they have off? What happened to individual choice? They’re giving people just what they want, and taking the rest away. A French family talks about vegetables being a weekly expense. What does that say about their take-home pay?
I don’t know about France, but MAKE MINE FREEDOM!
But I digress, again. Well, not really, since the free market violations are what I believe cause problems in the US’ Health Care system. “But that’s me, and I could be wrong…” -Tyler Durden
Finally, Moore brings US citizens to Guantanamo Bay for treatment. Now this is clever. Simply asking for the same treatment terrorists get. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get anywhere near the medical unit, or even inside the gates, or even presumably on the United States property. So they try their luck in Cuba. This is where the film got criticized for violating embargoes. I personally don’t believe in nationwide embargoes, though I support individual embargoes. The citizens go to a Cuban hospital and receive treatment.
While it’s great that they are treated, we should not believe for a second that Cuba is a country we would ever want to be like. I should not need to go much further than point out that living conditions are so bad on the island that there is a black market for food. Families are rationed certain goods for the week and will buy eggs and milk under the table just to survive. Simply look to the number of Cubans who illegally defect each year. There is such an extreme crippling of individual liberty there.
Conclusion - Though I have many disagreements with the way things were presented in the film and question the totality of the evidence presented, I must say that this film will probably have a positive impact on America’s health care system IF people learn to become watchdogs and are inspired to gain a better understanding of how the system works and what causes inefficiencies. The idea of this film got the little girl I mentioned earlier a second ear implant for her hearing. Perhaps the threat of exposure can continue to be used to get consumers positive results. If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, this not only applies to activists being watchful of government to ensure they do not restrict liberty, but also requires the people to be watchful to ensure their service providers are working to the best of their ability. We need to remember that companies work to serve us, and by demanding they serve all of us with the utmost care, we will all get the best quality medical care available.
I did some additional research on “Sicko” just perusing YouTube videos and found in interesting report by CNN that includes some information not included in “Sicko”. There’s another video of Michael Moore and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the organizer of the report debating the report the next night. Enjoy.
Gupta’s Sicko report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZxkMtqJZkU
Gupta/Moore debate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR2U_SAWHdQ&feature=related
Issues outside of this film not addressed are why the prices of services are expensive outside of the system. I mentioned earlier why prescriptions are costlier due to regulation, but also why is America, the most productive nation in the world, have a crashing economy? Our dollar is losing value at an astronomical rate. I could go off on the federal reserve here…but I’ll wait to see what Wickercat has to say in his response to “America: Freedom to Fascism”, as that pertains even more to that film.
Jesú s Christo, this would be equivalent to 14 double-spaced pages. That’s a lot of business to put to paper. I’ll learned a lot from this sharing of information, so thank you Richard, for agreeing to this exchange, and I can’t wait to read your response to F2F.
"They sold you hippies grunge, hip hop, now liberty activism."