Sicko, a review

Every Western nation but the US has free health care, this includes England, Canada, and France.

Sicko is brilliant, and I found it unsettling. Moore documents the inaccessible, expensive US health system where people lose their homes because of medical bills as contrasted with other countries where you just walk in and get quality health care for free.

He shows a US citizen who lost two fingertips in a circular saw accident. The hospital said $12,000 to reattach one, and $60,000 for the other. He could only afford to have one reattached. Yet a Canadian who lost all four fingers in a similar accident had them reattached and the cost to him was zero.

As for higher taxes, hey, I’d rather pay higher taxes and have free medical and college education like France does, and not the profits-above-all system we have in the US. Because that’s the problem. The profit motive. That needs to be eliminated so all the money goes for health care. Other countries have done so, and virtually every European country has better health care than the US.

From the World Health Organization

The U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance.

“But the same report assessed Americans’ overall health at 72nd among 191 member nations included in the study,” says Wikipedia.

Los Angeles hospitals currently dump patients who can’t pay on skid row. That’s right, a cab just leaves them on a street corner, sometimes they’re still in hospital clothes with an IV tube attached. Moore rightly asks, what is wrong with us? Why do we not provide the same health care that other countries do? His answer – because other countries have a social contract where it is assumed everyone is in it together. This is quite unlike the vicious predatory selfishness and greed masquerading as capitalism that is practiced in the US.

Cuba comes off well in the movie. US citizens who were denied health care in the US received quality no-cost care there. One American found an inhaler that costs her $120 in the US, a price she can barely afford, was a mere 5 cents in Cuba.

You’ll have to see the movie to discover the one place on American soil where there is universal, free, quality health care. Trust me, you’ll not ever guess where…

In the movie, a US expat in France said the reason France has free health care and college is because the government fears the people versus the US where the people fear the government.

And that, perhaps, is the real message of Sicko.


  1. An NPR report recently claimed that almost half of U.S. spending on health care goes for insurance administration– at the insurance companies and at the providers. That’s a lot of money that could go toward care instead!

    One American friend I have worked with in Sri Lanka was told he needed an abdominal operation, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars here in the States. He was uninsured and had virtually no income (there’s not a lot of money in peace work). He went to Sri Lanka and had the same operation done for $2,000. And that was at a private facility, not a government hospital!

    As to the lack of social contract, we have deteriorated from a nation where the community came together to raise your barn, and the one that invented public education, to a place where we won’t help you raise the barn (unless you pay us) but we’ll finance it with a sub-prime mortgage that will bankrupt you, and public education in some places has become little more than a training camp for prisons. Taking a cue from one of your recent posts, goodbye Adam Smith, hello Ayn Rand.

  2. Americans, remember your righ-wingnut spin decoder ring!! When they say that greed and avarice via the market = Good, and mutual aid and community via the government = Evil, yell BULLSHIT!!

    They have NO PROBLEM with a big government that THEY run to make THEMSELVES richer, using the AMERICAN PEOPLE like some kind of raw materials for their money-extraction…

  3. Aren’t “mutual aid” and “government” somewhat exclusive? I will never forget Dorothy Day’s argument against welfare: that government was stealing from us (the people) the opportunity, right, and responsibility to help our neighbors.

  4. Ahhh… the Doris Day Argument.

    So, it’s government of who? For whom? By Whom?

    Why have Americans surrendered their government (and to whom) so that people living in this defender of democracy see the government as something different from ‘us’?

    One thing one senses in MM’s movie is that other nations have not relinquished a sense of ‘ownership’ of their own state apparatus, so that the people feel like the government is their tool to get certain things done or taken care of, rather than seeing it as this big Borg ship separate from and floating “over” the people. As the American woman in Paris said – here, the government is afraid of the people, in America, the people are afraid of the government.

    The government of who? For whom? By Whom? Has it become un-American to insist on the term “people” instead of “capital”?

  5. I should add, to answer more directly, that for a nation which sees its government apparatus as a tool to manage pooled resources and get things done, mutual aid is *definitely* one of the *central* uses of the state apparatus.

    *WHY* did people fall for that “do you want the government making decisions for you”? The people forgot that *THEY* control the govenrment in a democracy!! That translates into: “Do you want you making decisions for you?”

    But Doris Day is an impressive analyst. Who wrote that “of the people for the people” stuff again… I forget… was it someone famous too? I hope it wasn’t sombody un-American!

  6. Why did someone convince us that the government was not us, but was someone else? Why were they scaring us away from the apparatuses of the state? It seems very much like, after scaring us away from big government, capital then waltzed in and took it over for themselves, still scaring us that we didn’t want big government bureaucracy (and giving us huge private ones instead).

  7. Actually it was Dorothy Day the Catholic radical, not Doris Day the actress. Big difference.

    As to who it was that caused us to mistrust our government, well it was those pesky founding fathers who had seen the abuses of government firsthand by the British Parliament. (Funny how we always remember it as a rebellion against the King, when Britain was as much a democracy then as now!)

    If you define mutual aid as merely the sharing of resources and provision of certain services, then govenrment can play that role. But that’s a very narrow view of mutual aid and I hope we can do better, at least among ourselves.

    Unless you’re a Christian committed to communal living (such as a monk or nun or those radical Catholics who follow the communism of the Book of Acts), or some comparably committed member of a like-minded community, there IS a functional difference between government and community, even in the best of circumstances. And we rarely see the best of circumatances.

    When I need help raising my barn and the Government shows up instead of my neighbors, or when my neighbor needs a roof shovelled and the Government comes to do it instead of me, or when I have too many cucumbers and I have to give them to the Government instead of the people in my community, we will live in a very sad world.

  8. In France, they have inexpensive day care, pregnant women get serious paid time off work, and government-paid nannies come by twice a week to do laundry and help out.

    Sounds like community to me.

    What if the government took the cucumbers, paid you decently for them, then fed the hungry with them?

  9. “There is no worship without sacrifice.” –Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi

    If the government pays me for something I would otherwise have freely given away, they have taken away my opportunity to do something for someone else– which, in my belief, is a spiritual practice.

    Where I live, if my neighbor needs help doing housework, my wife and her friends go over and do it. For free. Without compensation from the government or anyone else. And everyone knows it’s a gift that requires no repayment– except that when we need help someone will be there for us. THAT’S community. If Dubya sent a nanny over to do the housework at government expense, that opportunity for us to give of ourselves has been removed.

    Don’t get me wrong: I think paid maternity leave is an excellent idea. But let’s not confuse that with community, which is about relationships and not services.

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