"Gonna take more than a shot to get this poison out of me." -- Bon Jovi, 'Bad Medicine'

Film Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko enjoys a far simpler structure to his earlier Fahrenheit 9/11 but is no less polemical. In expressing his disappointment at the health care system in the US which is based on a for profit insurance model, he simply contrasts situations in which the sick have died or become close to mortality because they’ve been refused vital cure with the health care systems in Canada, France, Cuba and the UK where treatment is ‘social-based’ and the primary concern is making the patient well. He’s pondering why a nation which convinces itself that it’s the best in the world would apparently treat its citizens with such contempt.

Despite being a film which has been made very specifically for a US audience – at times Moore uses pronouns which could only be intended for his fellow countrymen – it travels well because its essentially revealing to the rest of the world a range of issues which have been obscured to us because the country's foreign policy is more likely to be reported. There where gasps in the screening I attended when a man revealed that he had to choose which finger to have sewn back on and that volunteers workers at ground zero who’d become ill weren’t being treated as those who were on the government payroll. That people who thought they were insured where suddenly being denied the service they’d paid for because of a box they’d forgotten to tick on an application form.

The film has been criticised over here because of the rather rosy image it provides of the NHS as Moore underlines that people don’t have to pay at Hammersmith Hospital to get their broken limbs fixed or have a baby delivered. There’s nothing about waiting lists, or the postcode lottery, or trying to get an appointment to see a GP, about targets, the closing and consolidation of A&E departments and the strain that junior doctors are under. Tony Benn is a welcome inclusion to provide some history (and we get to see his front room, a shrine to the Labour movement) and he talks about how there would be a revolution if the government tried to privatize the NHS, a version of which seems to already be happening with businesses becoming involved in the building of hospitals.

But Moore rightly doesn’t want to muddy his argument by providing ammunition for people on his home turf who’d oppose his views; he’s simplifying the material so that the documentary doesn’t get bogged down with information (which is something similar works such as The Corporation certainly do) and he’s very specific about highlighting just those items which help his argument which is what a polemic is all about. In fact, the UK government should love Moore for this since it demonstrates that despite all of those things, at present the NHS is better than anything going on in the US – except they won’t because they’ve been fact finding about the system in the States for the past couple of years and wouldn’t want us to see what they’re contemplating.

In fact, if anything some of the non-US sections were enough for us to look on the likes of France and Canada and even Cuba with envious eyes, our gaelic cousins in particular, who much have five weeks holiday a year by law and can have up to ten and very generous health care provision to the point of providing a state-employed nanny who’ll do your laundry. If there’s a criticism to be made though, in that case Moore only looks at relatively well off ex-pats and natives of Paris, never venturing to the inner-cities and other parts of France where it is very different. He does though provide footage of protests in France, a place where that kind of thing is encouraged as a contrast to the some other places where it’s considered terrorism.

No comments:

Post a comment