Although I am not a terribly hip and with the times sort of person, every now and then I am somehow granted access to sought after things, like a preview of Fast Food Nation, or, in this case, SiCKO. Don’t ask me how I do it. I think it’s my winning personality, personally.

At any rate, I saw SiCKO last night, and I thought I would tell you about it, both to lord it over you and because it’s interesting. No, really just because it was interesting. I swear. Also because I think you all should see it, and comment on this post when you have, because I would love to hear people’s thoughts about the American health care system. I would also be interested in hearing from some of my overseas readers, for perspective.

For those of you with your heads in the sand, SiCKO is the latest offering by Michael Moore. And, I have to say, I think it’s one of his better films. He got away from the political generalizing, the sweeping statements, and dramatic effects. He focused instead on average Americans, and their life experiences. He introduced us to ordinary people through the film, and let us see how life can change in an instant. As I told Brendan, it reminded me of Studs Terkel, in a way.

He also contrasted the American health care system with other nations, including Britain and Canada. Now, I realize that the health care systems in these countries are troubled, and that since I have not interacted with them personally, it’s hard to make any sort of meaningful statement about them. That said, it seems clear to me that adopting an NHS style system in the United States would be a good thing.

What I liked about SiCKO was that it focused primarily on people who have health insurance. Yes, that’s right. I think most Americans already know that the uninsured are screwed, and Moore was right to gloss over that issue. What SiCKO talked about is how insurance isn’t all its cracked up to be. Would I rather be insured right now than uninsured? Hell, yeah, but it’s not a magic bullet. I know that from personal experience, and I’ll bet some of my readers do too.

I thought the film did an excellent job of speaking for itself, without a lot of voiceover madness. I was a little underimpressed by the showboating in Cuba at the end, personally. But up until that point, the film was strong, and it was good, and that segment should not detract from the value of the film as a whole. I hope that viewers in countries with universal health care watch it, so that they understand how much their system is worth, and how they should fight to protect it. I hope that Americans watch it and realize that our health care system is seriously, profoundly broken.

Health care is broken when sick patients are offloaded in the streets because hospitals think they aren’t good for the bill. It’s broken when independent adults declare bankruptcy and move in with their children because of medical bills. When children die in hospitals without treatment because of bureaucracy. And I think it is time for people to see that.

In some ways, I am very fortunate because I live in California. Thanks to a state program which wants to keep the poor from breeding, I am entitled to birth control and regular gynaecological exams. This service will end when I get a tubal ligation. It also ends for women after menopause. Thanks to other progressive programs, I can get minimal health care for various conditions, because of the hard work and caring of my community. This is a pretty great thing, but it’s not enough, because I know that there are many other people in this country who are not as fortunate. And, damnit, I think that health care is a right, not a privilege, and I think we owe it to each other to make sure that we have access to the services we need.

At the end of the film, Moore asked why Americans cannot come together to help each other out. He talked about his view of Americans as some of the most generous, loving people in the world. People who bring meals to the elderly, throw fundraisers to help accident victims, who walk dogs for Animal Control. Yet, as a nation, we cannot provide universal health care, because a lot of people make a lot of money under the current system, and therefore have a vested interest in failure. These people want us to fear socialized medicine and other social programs which might benefit our society as a whole.

It’s a funny irony that, as an American, when my cat gets cancer, I can treat it, paying for multiple surgeries and medications. Mr. Bell has been cancer free for over a year, and can look forward to a long and happy life. But, if I get cancer, the best I can hope for is shooting myself in the woods somewhere, since I cannot afford to treat it and I am not entitled to euthanasia, since I am a human, not property.

If you ask me, that’s a pretty sad thing to ponder, whether or not you support animal rights. Mr. Bell is, of course, entitled to high quality health care, and I owe it to him as his guardian. But who owes it to me? Health care companies and the government want me to believe that I owe it to myself, at the cost of livlihood. They also want me to believe that preventative medicine is wasteful, and that I should continue living with the dull ache in my jaw if I cannot afford to fix it. My tax dollars are being well spent on important things like private defense contractors and pork barrel spending. Education, health care, and adequate equipment for soldiers? Not funding priorities, kiddos!