After years of research (during the past two weeks) and experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs (mainly on other people), I have returned from the edge of time slightly drunk and bearing in my green man-purse a tale of unkempt horror.
Michael Moore, free thinker, bids us think freer.
Time is ripe for revolution. But – if the actions of the biased, butt-bought media are anything to go by – it will not be televised.
In Sickness and In Wealth.
Michael Moore is the new Socrates. He dares to ask, “Why?” – while adjusting his toga for maximum indecent exposure.
In his latest film SICKO, Moore asks: Why is the American Health System ranked number 37 in the world, just above Slovenia? According to the World Health Organization, even the United Arab Emirates ranks 32. (The terrorists must be winning.) The Top 5 include France at number 1 and Andorra at number 4. (Do Americans even know where Andorra is?)
And then, like Socrates, with every answer he discovers, in perpetual regress, Moore asks why that answer exists.
Why do Americans pay for comprehensive health insurance and then get their claims denied when they need that insurance most?
The reason is simple: “the health industry is essentially a racket,” run by corporations; by law, corporations have to turn a profit for their shareholders – only way to do that is by screwing their clients: using any contrived excuse to deny them coverage or not pay doctors’ claims.
Too thin, too fat, Body Mass Index too high, “too young to have cervical cancer” – actual excuses for denying coverage, and Moore unspools a “Star Wars” text scroll list of hundreds of medical conditions that disqualify patients from being able to get insurance, long enough to choke a Hutt. To deny payment of claims, insurance companies get even more creative: the drugs are “experimental”; your ailment is “not life-threatening”; your operation is “not a medical necessity”…
Some of Moore’s interviewees actually DIED since relating their nightmare experiences for this documentary – from those “non-life-threatening” ailments.
Rest assured that if insurance companies accidentally end up paying for patient treatment, they then send in someone like Lee “The Hit Man” – a guy specifically employed to comb through your medical history and try to find discrepancies to penalize you. (Forgot to admit to a minor yeast infection from high school? They’ll retroactively seek reimbursement for all monies paid out to you since then.) Lee rationalizes why you might feel neglected or passed over: “You’re not ‘slipping through the cracks’ – somebody made that crack and swept you towards it. And the intent is to maximize profits. I don’t know that I killed anybody; did I do harm in people’s lives? Hell, yeh!”
This movie should not even be classed alongside regular “entertainment” films or documentaries; as a hammering indictment of the egocentric, upturned nose of the American Health Care system, SICKO, written, produced and directed by Michael Moore, is the most important film to come out of America since… well, since his last film, FAHRENHEIT 9/11.
Like his other films, SICKO plants the seed of dissent in another area of our lives we’ve regarded with complacency – an aspect we’ve been programmed to believe is doing us right even as it does us morbidly wrong.
Here’s the scary part: SICKO does not examine the 50 million Americans without health care; rather the 250 million Americans with health insurance who think they are adequately being taken care of. (Oh, they’re being taken care of, all right: remember that scene in PULP FICTION when Vincent says, “Marsellus asked me to take care of his wife” and Jules makes a gun gesture towards his temple, asking, “Take care of her?”)
The Hippocratic Oath – “I will keep them from harm and injustice” – doesn’t exist any more.
to have and withhold
Industry terminology refers to any payment for a claim as a “medical loss.”
After years of denying claims, when Linda Peeno, M.D. (University of Louisville Hospital) caused a patient’s death by denying payment for a necessary operation, she could take the guilt no longer. Though she saved her company half a mil and ensured her advancement (doctors with the most denials receive bonuses), her guilt overwhelmed her and she went public in 1996: “Managed care maims and kills patients.” But we can imagine the gargoyles empowered to uphold The Oath rationalizing that “keeping patients from harm” is a proactive decree, whereas their INACTIVITY couldn’t possibly be associated with harmful intent. Sounds too contrived? This was their actual rationalization – that Peeno was “not denying care, just denying payment.”
But the excuses for denying that payment are where the hypocrisy and deceit lies; when an institution preaches “values” and promises to provide services in exchange for the exorbitant fees you pay them, denying that service is not a case of “fine print” or “patients misunderstanding the contract” – it is blatant, unscrupulous reneging of the contract. And even though THEY renege, our money is on a one-way street. Chris Rock notes: we pay insurance “In Case Shit; in case shit happens; if shit don’t happen – give me my money back.” Conversely, if shit does happen (and all the slogans say it will), provide the services we’ve been paying for In Case Shit. But the bigger your claim, the more likely they’ll try NOT to pay it. How did they get away with this for so long? Kudos and my first born to Moore for opening our eyes to this flagrant disregard of sanity.
Doctors – who have always been associated with SAVING patients – were now responsible for the DEATH of patients. “Just how did we arrive at this state?”
Richard Milhous Satan’s Vagina Nixon.
It sounds like a punchline, but during Nixon’s demonic reign, Edgar Kaiser (the guy who put the Kaiser in Permanente, businessman, tycoon – not doctor) proposed a health system where “The less care they give ‘em, the more money they make.” Satan’s Vagina, of course, loved it, and instigated this opprobrious profiteering buffalo by signing the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Act of December 1973. Naturally, the Prince of Darkness had to make it seem beneficial to the peons who would die to be in it – literally – so he simply lied that he “wanted every American to have the finest health care in the world.” That’s Our Satan’s Vagina.
It may seem paradoxical to live in a capitalistic society and decry “profiteers” but profiteer means “to exploit” not “to profit.” There is a difference between providing services to make your money (profiting) and willfully benefiting from someone else’s death, dismemberment or suffering (profiteering).
Reading about Nixon’s initiation of this heinous Act, fudged history paints him as a Mother Teresa, but distilled down to its basic premise, the HMO Act was a tool to slake federal greed.
Moore shows us an example of every American having “the finest health care” – patient dumping. Other countries would scratch their heads at what this term means: Kaiser has been brought up on many charges of expelling patients who could no longer pay their hospital bill, dumping them in “homeless” areas – most of the patients clothed in nothing but their flimsy hospital gowns.
“Who ARE we? Is this what we’ve become?”
to love and to perish
Of course, not every one has a horror story – if you’ve got health insurance in America, you are probably not in the small percentile who need to decide which sawed-off finger you can afford to re-attach, or how to “pre-approve” an ambulance ride when you’re unconscious in it; you are probably being treated no worse than the average relatively healthy citizen, paying your premiums quietly… and then co-paying after a doctor’s visit… and then paying a percentage for your medications afterwards… and paying fully for extraneous things like MRIs or ultrasounds and emergency room visits and – waitaminute…
…With car insurance, if we have an accident that is not our fault, we (technically) don’t pay a cent – everything is reimbursed. Isn’t that the essence of “insurance” or “full coverage”? But no matter HOW MUCH we pay into our Health Insurance, it is never enough to warrant not having to pay them ANY money when we actually need their services. So we’re paying large amounts monthly in order to be allowed the privilege to pay small amounts when we get sick, rather than being penalized by having to pay them large amounts during sickness for not paying them large amounts monthly during health. And Americans fell for this system? And we wonder how George W. Bush was elected twice…
The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.
Moore is regarded as a pedagogue by some (those who feel his views are as slanted as theirs); granted, he does have that unctuous narrative delivery that makes your flesh crawl with its cultivated foreboding style, but he does have a compelling and effective way of constructing his arguments. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: though he may seem partisan or motivated by politics or greed, his films (all of them part horror show, part comedy, part bitchslap) make you think outside your box. Likewise, don’t take my green word for anything – with media such as this, I always provide more external linkage than a mere movie review so you can research your own truths. Like your teachers used to say, if you fail to do so, you fail your SELF.
Yes, Moore is showing us extreme cases (Larry and Donna moving in with their daughter’s family after their ailments bankrupted them; 79 year-old Frank still working as a janitor “until I die” for the free health care from his employer; Julie’s husband denied payment on kidney cancer operations or drugs because they were “not a medical necessity,” “not for this type of cancer,” “experimental bone marrow procedures” – until his death), but they are only “extreme” for their unconscionable mishandling. These cases would not have such muddied and bloodied resolutions in other health care systems more civil, more humane than America’s.
for better or for purse
Moore visits France, England (with its National Health Service, NHS), Canada (with Tommy Douglas’s state-financed system) and even Cuba to drive home the point. He does not prejudicially present only syrup, rather tries his hardest to DISCLAIM the overseas systems, but finds he just cannot with so much irrefutable evidence glaring at him; in systems where doctors inquire over your existing medical conditions not to create cracks to sweep you into, but to ensure you get the correct help.
The United States of America seems to be the only First World country on Earth without Universal Health Care, sometimes misunderstood as “free” health care. In all the countries mentioned above, hospital/health costs are defrayed via health care taxes imposed on citizens and/or federal funding. It’s that simple.
In England, doctors receive bonuses for the more people they CURE, rather than deny. But – Socrates retorts – they must be living on the poverty line. If you’d call a million dollar house derelict. An English doctor prescribes: It’s all about not being greedy. Half of my American readers just went deaf and blind: “Not being WHAT?”
These same Europeans are appalled that Americans are treated like third-class citizens by the companies they are paying In Case Shit; a pleasant shock to see Froggies and Pommies laughing at Moore’s descriptions of Americans beleaguered by their own system. They were LAUGHING at America. They were laughing AT America. I really think it is time to relinquish that deathgrip on the myth that America is the “greatest country in the world” and that “everyone either fears, respects, or loves” her. Sniggering into their beers is more like it – and compared to Euro beer, American brews are like making love in a canoe: fucking close to water.
Moore admits that France is “drowning in taxes” but it’s not all pertaining to health care. France also provides free college, free nannies, free housekeepers, basically an array of social services that allows working adults the freedom to pursue their careers and their leisures.
Dr. Jacques Milliez (Head of Obstetrics, St. Antoine Hospital, France) cannot hide his contempt for the American system: “[In France] You pay according to your means and you receive according to your needs.”
While on this side of the pond, inculcated American doctors cannot hide THEIR indoctrinated contempt of the European system – they’re the ones with the most to lose. On Larry King Live, while Moore suggests quite correctly that adding up all your premiums and co-pays and subsidiary payments will far outweigh health care taxes, Dr. Sanjay Gupta (neurosurgeon and CNN Media Correspondent) is more concerned with accusing Moore of misrepresenting the term “free” and confusing “less sophisticated people” (yes, that’s an insult, America) and harping on long European waiting lists – exactly like the media has taught him to do – desperately trying on any argument so that he won’t have to give up his five-million dollar house or $1000-an-hour whores.
But Moore’s point is valid – health care IS “free” if the costs are taken from taxes. Police and firefighters and libraries are all funded by your taxes; you don’t feel them putting their hands in your pocket – but they’re there when you need them. When you call the police, they come around and beat you FOR FREE. You don’t consciously consider how many of your tax dollars paid for their unnecessary brutality. Free is free.
But how can Moore, who is so opposed to government, want to hand over the health care system to it? He clarifies, “It’s not the government that’s bad – it’s the people we elect that don’t run it right.” This message is implicit in the last Alexis de Tocqueville quote onscreen: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
But the political process is not safe from the looming monster of the health insurance companies: Hillary Clinton chaired the Health Care Initiative in 1993, which actually proposed universal health care to America, but was overwhelmed by the selfishness and greed of Congress and the health insurance companies rallying together with massive media corporations to spend $100 million to defeat her with lies. Years later, she was bought out, in the form of campaign contributions from health insurance companies for keeping her mouth shut. It’s even easier to buy out the felon George W. Bush, the health insurance industry shelling out a mere $13 million to the 2004 Bush criminal re-election campaign.
from this day whoreward
It will take a government which is incorruptible (well – maybe that’s as impossible a dream as asking priests to stop raping children), but at least one that is scrupulous, intelligent, humane, and understands the concept of reciprocal altruism benefiting the species. As we have discovered, George W. Bush is none of the above, and can’t even spell reciprocal altruism, let alone wrap his peanut brain around it. SICKO actually opens with that famous Rain Man moment of his (oh? which one?), speaking to a gathering of Red State goons who pay even less attention to his speeches than he does: “Too many OBGYNs are unable to practice their love with women all across this country.”
Funny he should mention that, for Newsweek reports in July 2007 that “childbirth is the leading cause of death and disability for women of reproductive age.” That same article says something so obvious that it seems almost idiotic to repeat: “Countries with the most widely available health services have the lowest mortality rates.” UNICEF reports that in Sweden, one woman dies for every 30,000 births; in the U.S. it is one in 2,500. Evidently we need to say it again and again (stoop to the Bushies’ tactics) or America will NEVER. EVER. WAKE UP.
Choice depends on the freedom to choose – and if you’re shackled with debt, you don’t have the freedom to choose. People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don’t vote… There are two ways in which people are controlled: first of all, frighten them, secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.
— Tony Benn, British Member of Parliament.
(At first, the above statement could be misconstrued as an “educated nation” being uncontrollable, but I believe that “harder to govern” means it takes a more talented government to lead it judiciously. The statement could also be phrased, “an educated nation is harder to terrorize,” which better fits the current political climate.)
Doctors associate universal health care with Communism – called the Red Terror after WWI – but just as there is a new Tricky Dick vampiring the White House (Cheney), there is also a new Red Terror. These days they’re called Republicans.
in che as in sorrow
Moore, the great agitator, is not too overbearing in SICKO – until he hears that there IS one place on American soil with universal health care – Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba, where Taliban and al Qaeda operatives are imprisoned, where the U.S. boasts of the most modern medical facilities and a 1 to 4 ratio of doctors to patients.
Then the madness begins. He loads a boat with many of the ailing featured in this movie (as well as 9/11 volunteers with respiratory complications, ignored by the Bush administration for not being on the government payroll and precluded from the $50 million 9/11 Care Fund which no 9/11 volunteer will ever see) and tries to enter GITMO, but his megaphoned entreaties to the guard towers of seeking the same medical treatment for fellow Americans as that available to al Qaeda elite falls on deaf, deaf ears. Insensible, innit?
To aid his ailing charges, Moore was forced to land in Cuba, where they visited Havana Hospital and received sterling treatment – FOR FREE – one lady buying an asthma inhaler for 5c, which cost $120 in the States, “It’s the biggest insult!”
Che Guevera once asked of America: “How can we do this and you not?”
The same media that accuses Moore of finding only the best in other systems and only the worst in America’s system is the same prostitute body that is bought out by pharmaceutical companies and political despots to promulgate lies about overseas health systems, in order to keep the American sheeple shackled with debt, frightened and demoralized. In other words, THEY only find the worst in others and lie about the best in America – one step beyond what they accuse Moore of doing. The facts are there, peoploids. Seek them out without the filter of corporate whitewash. If Moore gets anything across in his movie and in the resulting skirmishes over fudged facts, it is that the mainstream media CANNOT BE TRUSTED. He said it quite bluntly in 2004 in Fahrenheit. How long will it take for viewers to realize that “news” is funded by Corporate Whoring?
Americans have been geared to hate Cuba through these same methods of disinformation by the media, painting Fidel Castro as a demon, but when he took control of Cuba in 1959, his affront to the USA was in simply taking back Cuban land which the United States had its fat fingers in. When the U.S. could not get their chosen dictator “elected” – General Fulgencio Batista – because the people refused to vote for him (which, in essence, is the cornerstone of democracy), the CIA offered the Cuban Mafia $150,000 to whack Castro. (Don’t look so surprised, America… George W. Bush’s foreign policy is exactly the same: If the people won’t elect a leader the United States likes, they vilify them for not being democratic. “Spreading democracy,” indeed…) Castro still refuses to be intimidated by America and runs his country without American intervention and aid; in U.S. foreign policy parlance, not being able to be bought or terrorized by America equals “enemy.”
to honor and disrespect
Though it seems like he is advocating socialism, Moore’s aim is only at “life and death issues like police, fire, health care, which the government should guarantee for all citizens.” It is easy to learn from my Australian, Canadian and British friends in those countries that every health system created by fallible humans is fallible itself. But Moore is the first to admit this. His solution – like all great ideas – is simplicity itself: “Each of the socialized medicine systems have their flaws – what I would like us to do as Americans is, instead of talking about the problems of the Canadian system or the British system or the French system, why don’t we go and find the one thing the Canadians do right, the one thing the Brits do right, the one thing the French do right… put them all together into a melting pot and call it the American system.”
Sounds reasonable? Does to me. Like COLUMBINE, like FAHRENHEIT, will Michael Moore again look prescient five years on?
Moore closes SICKO with a remarkable act of simultaneous generosity, principle and self-aggrandizement. Jim Kenefick, owner of – as Moore puts it – “the biggest anti-Michael Moore website on the internet” (moorewatch.com, defunct 2013) was in danger of closing his site to pay for his wife’s medical bills. Moore anonymously sent Kenefick a $12,000 check, so that Kenefick could continue to “exercise his First Amendment right to run me into the ground.” Speculate all you want about Moore’s selfish reasons for publicizing this “anonymous” gesture on film – the fact is, it’s $12,000 (of “publicity”?), and it did help Kenefick out of serious financial difficulties. But though the “principled” Kenefick admittedly thanks Moore repeatedly (after Moore contacted him to tell him of the inclusion of this episode in the film) he did not return the money. (Guess he wasn’t that principled after all…) And after ranting and rationalizing about Moore’s agenda, Kenefick arrives at the same message that Moore espouses (though via his own self-righteous posturing and lateral reasoning): QUESTION EVERYTHING.
Well, I could also adopt the high ground and rationalize that this incident illustrates Moore practicing what he preaches – defending free speech – but I’m gonna pretend I’m Ron Paul or Mike Gravel and simply tell it like it is: Can we just allow Moore one small sliver of human capriciousness? Don’t we ALL dream of having the power, the wealth, the forum to humiliate our enemies with just such a public burn?
Mission accomplished, Michael.
for richer not poorer
Will SICKO faze the health insurance killers? No, not as a collective. The United States of America is inherently a nation of selfish individuals – the killers know that. When media like SICKO exposes their selfishness, America tolerates the insurance injustice more so than other countries because the selfishness is also a part of them too. They understand what it is to be a greedy whore. If they were to mount the slippery slope of stultifying capitalism at the insurance company level, they correctly suspect it would end with their own selfishness and greed being jeopardized.
Because that’s what capitalism IS – depleting Peter to pay Paul. And I’m not complaining, although people seem to want it both ways. When capitalism benefits them, they go to war to defend it, but when Bill Gates tried to take over the universe a few years ago by expanding his exceptional free market products, every selfish capitalist went to war on him.
Capitalism prompted the Bush administration (who are funded heavily by health insurance companies) to investigate the 9/11 volunteers that Moore took to Cuba. Vindicating everything that Moore warns us about: the health insurance hand puppetting the government and the soured relations between the countries.
Shortly after the release of SICKO I needed a CAT scan. So the process called for my doctor to contact some douchebag sitting in a cubicle somewhere in Downtown Cameltoe Alaska to ask for bureaucratic permission to write a prescription for the CAT scan. The Blue Cross then sent me the doctor’s prescription with a notice, all in caps: “THIS CERTIFICATION IS BASED ON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED AND IS OF MEDICAL NECESSITY ONLY AND IS NOT A GUARANTEE THAT BENEFITS WILL BE PAID.” Now stay with me, people: They’ve admitted themselves that my case is a “medical necessity” – so what am I paying medical insurance FOR if not for medical necessities?! If they don’t guarantee payment for a MEDICAL NECESSITY, what in the name of Jesus and His Seven Dwarves DO they guarantee payment for?
SICKO is the scariest horror movie of the decade.
And they will probably make Michael Moore drink hemlock. And when they make a movie about his life, Denzel Washington will play Michael Moore.
Because That’s America.
The battle for Truth is far from over.