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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sicko

Posted on Thu, Jun 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

****
Sicko
Studio: The Weinstein Co.
Rated: PG-13
Director: Michael Moore
WorkNameSort: Sicko
Our Rating: 4.00
Michael Moore's previous Barnum-esque combination of near-genius editing of news footage and self-righteous ego-tripping takes a backseat in Sicko, his examination of the American health-care industry. As Moore's voice-over clarifies in the opening moments, the film is not about the estimated 50 million Americans who don't have health insurance. It's about the more than 250 million Americans who do: those people who mistakenly assume that, because they pay their premiums and co-pays, they're going to be OK. It's about the retired husband and wife he introduces who had to move in with their daughter's family because of the draining costs of her cancer medication. Health care for these people ' for us ' is Sicko's subject. Via his website, Moore solicited stories of health-care coverage headaches; within weeks, he had more than 25,000 responses. He chose the stories that carry the most dramatic impact, but he didn't have to manipulate them in order to highlight the problem. Over and over, average people tell different versions of the same story: Denials of payment for medications, tests, procedures, surgery, hospitalization and any experimental treatment lead to decline in quality of life, including unbearable illness, massive debts and death. An hour into Sicko, you're looking to throttle the nearest HMO claims adjuster or managed-care lobbyist. It's then that Moore starts working his just-another-guy-from-Flint routine. Well, golly: What goes on in those countries that have socialized medicine, such as Canada, the United Kingdom and France? Is it any better? Why, yes, it is. In these countries, where Moore talks to doctors, patients and even American expatriates, the issues of life expectancy, infant mortality rate and expenditures on health care as a percentage of the GDP fare better than in the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, the poorest Britons are healthier than the richest Americans. When the inevitable Michael Moore moment arrives ' in this case, the revelation that boatfuls of Americans (including a few Sept. 11 volunteers suffering from ailments contracted during their work at Ground Zero) were shipped to Cuba to access the same health care provided to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay ' you don't care about Moore's grandstanding manipulation as much as you're appalled that our country has come to this. Moore wisely doesn't editorialize too much about what his camera captures. He knows that it doesn't matter to the audience whether they live in a blue or red state or if they're pro-gun control or not. Only one word springs to an American mind when watching these scenes: unacceptable.

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