Monday, July 02, 2007

Still Sicko

David Denby in The New Yorker had the opposite reaction that I did to "Sicko." He liked the beginning of the movie, but hated when Moore switched his focus from what was wrong with our health care system to what is right with those in other countries. Granted, Moore's constant refrain of "So what did this cost you?" and mock surprise at hearing "Nothing!" could be seen as tiresome, but I don't think it negated the message. Denby felt that instead of wasting time with this silly stunt, he could have investigated how some of these systems could be adapted for the U.S. In fact, he says:

Moore winds up treating the audience the same way that, he says, powerful people treat the weak in America—as dopes easily satisfied with fairy tales and bland reassurances. And since he doesn't interview any of the countless Americans who have been mulling over ways to reform our system, we’re supposed to come away from “Sicko” believing that sane thinking on these issues is unknown here. In the actual political world, the major Democratic Presidential candidates have already offered, or will soon offer, plans for reform.

I would have loved to see some of this, but maybe he was afraid to suggest that a solution is in the works, at the risk of making the audience complacent. Or maybe he doesn't believe enough has been done or will be done. I think he also wanted to start the dialogue, not exhaust it. Interestingly enough, Denby's opinion is not shared with the majority of viewers; the movie has one of the highest ratings on Rotten Tomatoes I've seen in awhile.

However it still bothers me that one of Moore's scare tactics, that you will be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition from an exhaustive list, isn't entirely true.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) became a law in 1996. Title I of HIPAA protects your rights to health insurance coverage when you change jobs, lose a job, get divorced, become pregnant, or move.

Basically, you can't be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition if you switch employers or health insurers. So how old is this footage of people potentially being turned down for having asthma? Or are these people who are not protected because it's their first job with insurance? I wish he had addressed this, because otherwise it looks as if he's taking anecdotal evidence out of context to bolster his premise. Isn't this what his detractors claim he always does? How does this help his credibility?

But what really annoys me is that Moore is manipulating the same scare tactics that he denounces in "Bowling for Columbine." One of the things I liked best about that film was how Moore incorporated ideas from "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things." He derided the ways in which our media uses fear to gain our attention, and yet isn't that what he's doing here? Here are four or five horror stories that were caused by our current health care system. And this could happen to you.


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