In recent years, Moore has become a sort of vexed figure. Under constant attack from the right, the left doesn’t quite know what to do with him. He’s a propagandist after all, so there are some sins of omission and some naked attempts to persuade. I feel as though in recent years leftists have maybe taken the right wing critiques of Moore a little too much to heart. He is certainly aiming to paint a different picture than the one provided Fox News, but that’s the point. Moore is a propagandist for our side, and as such, we ought to embrace him for all his imperfections.
I saw Sicko having not read anything about it, and so I was surprised to learn that it was about people who did have healthcare in the U.S., rather than people who didn’t (which is what I thought the movie was going to be about). The stories he tells are absolutely mortifying: insured families left destitute after battles with chronic illness, insurance companies effectively killing children by refusing to cover care in out of network hospitals, companies looking for ways to retroactively deny claims, and on and on. His exploration of other countries’ medical systems does a really good job of shaming the U.S. government, the AMA and the insurance industries. The scene in which he discovers the “cashier” in the British hospital is priceless. True, for the Canadian section, he visits Ontario rather than Quebec, but even though the quality of emergency care in Quebec isn’t as good as Ontario (or many place in the U.S.), it is true that nobody will be charged $60,000 to have a finger reattached. And it’s true that his visit to France misses out on a chance to visit the suburbs. But then Moore isn’t about nuance. And the nuance doesn’t change the overall point: the American healthcare system is morally bankrupt; alongside an obscene incarceration rate, an out-of-control military-industrial complex and a decaying public school infrastructure, healthcare is among the nation’s greatest failures of its citizens.