04 July 2007

My Movie Review for the Year

In order for me to see a film, it either has to be a documentary or a film made in France or Germany. Michael Moore's Sicko fulfills the first criteria as well as some of the second. It covers most of the bases in America's health care debate in the entertaining, gonzo style of the whipping boy of the No Spin Zone.

The movie details the shortcomings of the health insurance system and provides comparisons to health care in Cuba, France and the United Kingdom. Humorous clips like the Star Wars diseases scroll that make insurance not cover claims provide punch to an issue that really should have more teeth than it does. The only true opponents of health care reform in the U.S. work for the insurance companies.

The movie paints a bleak picture of elected officials and their role in the health care paradox that currently exists. The historical clips include recordings of Nixon discussing beginning the HMO system and promotional material with then-actor Ronald Reagan railing against socialized medicine. These clips provide great backdrops to understanding how we got where we are. Its also nice to see him attack Democrats (Hillary Clinton) as well as Republicans (W).

I would have been more interested in seeing a concrete financial model of how the overall financial protocol of medicine in the United States would change. Michael Moore does a better job of tying up the loose ends in this movie than in some of the past efforts, but my inner nerd still wanted to see how taxes would change and how a real program would actually work in the United States. These are small complaints in what was an otherwise outstanding film.

One of the films illustrations could easily have been called into question. While his example of the young girl who died in a hospital due to a fever may have been an excellent example of issues with medical insurance, it was also an example of careless fact checking. Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center (formerly King Harbor) is a notoriously mismanaged hospital with an ethical track record coming just short of Hotel Rwanda levels.

The patient could have died just as easily from incompetent health care as she could have from insurance problems. The insurance company may have determined that driving a girl with a 104 degree temperature in a car to another hospital was preferential to leaving her at King Drew. (You might also enjoy this blog's post from March about the L.A. Times reporters who covered much of Sicko's material, including Kaiser Permanente, Skid Row dumping and King Drew Hospital.)

Moore could have played up the better-eating-equals-better-living angle more prominently. The movie addresses the food as medicine angle in an offhand manner for about 30 seconds before jumping to the next topic. There are many players in this problem, and the film addresses the insurance issue better than the pharmaceutically dependent nature of modern living angle or the fallout of factory food angle. These issues may have been difficult to address in a film that is already more than two hours long.

While everything isn't perfect, the movie does a good job of conveying the truth of the current landscape of American health care. The movie isn't an overnight solution or a panacea for health care. However, when the information is presented in this convincing of a manner, perhaps it's time for somebody in the capital city to take the baton and run with it. Hopefully somebody fixes it before you or I really need universal health care.

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