When Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko opened in the theaters, I was not one of the few that camped out and waited in line. I took my own sweet time. A Moore documentary often contains: heavy handed editing, a blatant left wing bias, closeups of tear stained faces cued to swelling musical scores, and Moore's omnipresent narrative. For the record, I happen to be a bleeding heart liberal, and a card carrying member of the ACLU. That being said, I also shy away from documentary films that are low on the "fair and balanced" quotient.
I was "Wrongo" with a capital "W." Sicko lives up to it's critical acclaim. And surpasses it.
"Sicko" didn't make me want to move to France, Cuba, or the UK - all countries with socialized health care. It didn't make me any less proud to be an American (sheepish, yes, but not ashamed). "Sicko" didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know about how medical directors at HMOs receive bonuses for approving the highest number of claim denials, or enlighten me to the plight of the poor and uninsured. The latter have already received their fair share of press from the media, and rightly so.
Because, as Moore states at the beginning of "Sicko," this movie isn't about the 19 year old crack dealer, who lives in a flophouse, is HIV Positive and does not have access to medical attention. This is about the 200 million people in the US who have health insurance. People who have jobs, own property, pay taxes, and are, by all accounts responsible American citizens. People who have aren't millionaires, but can afford to dine out, go on vacations, and indulge in a shopping spree now and then. Middle-class people. People like...you and I.
I wasn't prepared for the nausea that welled up inside me. I wasn't expecting the ensuing feelings of incredulity, helplessness, and finally - rage. Rage, that a 50-something couple who raised 6 children and put them through college, were forced into bankruptcy and foreclosure because of escalating medical bills, and had to move into with their 20-something kids. Anger, that a single mother's claim for cervical cancer was denied coverage, because she was "only 22," and therefore too young to have cervical cancer. And, finally - a horrifying, chilling moment of clarity.
That could easily be me. Me, with the decent paying job, the health insurance, the gym membership, the well-balanced diet, and the vigor of youth. Plainly put, it doesn't matter if you have all of the above - I am - we are - all just a twist of fate, and a heartbeat away from the emergency room. Is this just a sad fact of life? Absolutely. But is it fair that I should stand lose my house, my job, my dignity, all because my insurance company won't cover the astronomical medical bill? Welcome to the American Dream. Big business has hijacked our healthcare system, and they are here to stay.
Throughout the documentary, Moore makes the all too important connection between the personal and the political. However, with another year and half to go before the Bush administration is a distant nightmre, I'm going to take my mom's advice. Eat right, sleep right, play outside, and lay off the candy. With the state of American healthcare these days, it pays to not get sick. I simply cannot afford to.