a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Jan, 2008

a bit about Sicko

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

[Update: Julie Pierce, who appeared in Sicko, has posted her thoughts in the comments of this post. Do check it out.]

Last night Mark and I watched Sicko, the latest film by Michael Moore. It’s a documentary about the health care system in the U.S. Has anyone seen it? Oh.My.God. It was so shocking. This should be required viewing for everyone. (btw, here’s what Roger Ebert had to say about it. There’s also a really good Wikipedia entry about it.)

My thoughts (in random bullety format):

– I am still in shock.

– re: that guy had to choose which finger he wanted sewn back on. (For those who haven’t seen the film… he accidentally sawed off the tips of the ring finger and the middle finger on one hand. He was told that it was going to cost $60,000 to reattach the middle finger, and $12,000 for the ring finger. He chose the cheaper option.)

– the each story was terrible in it’s own way, the lady who’s little girl died, the woman who’s husband died from kidney cancer …

– Moore kind of exaggerated the benefits of the Canadian health care system. I mean, let’s face it, it’s not perfect. There is a doctor shortage, the nurses are overworked, and there is a longer wait for certain treatments, BUT, I would rather hang out in a hospital waiting room for 10 hours than be denied care or have my care bankrupt me. I know that if I am wounded, have a baby, of have a heart attack that I will be taken care of, and that it will be okay.

– Oh my, those poor poor 9-11 workers. They risked their lives to pull people from the rubble and now their own government has turned their backs on them. The whole scene where they went to Cuba was heartbreaking, especially the part where the woman got her inhaler from the pharmacy. How is it that Cuba, a country that so few resources can provide that level of care for their people, but the U.S. cannot?

– It’s clear that the U.S.A. is being run by business interests, and not by the people. Americans should be furious. So why aren’t they?

– How can ANYONE argue against universal health care?

Anyone care to comment about these things? I’d love to hear from anyone in the U.S., whether you’ve seen this movie or not. And if any American readers have questions about socialized medicine, there are enough Canadian readers here to answer.

Anyone like to share a story? It doesn’t matter what side of the border you’re on…

19 Responses to "a bit about Sicko"

1 | Kathy

January 11th, 2008 at 11:00 am


Yes, the health care system in the US is in need of repair. Moore tends to distort some truths though so I have a hard time listening to him as the expert on any topic. I think this quote says it best “Michael Moore has ruined any credibility he may have had by telling so many half-truths. That’s not to say that everything he says (or edits to say) is a half-truth; I’m sure a lot of what he says is the truth. His favorite method of lying is by omission.” Lying by omission – makes me angry when all I want is the whole truth! Deciding what we can believe from anyone, any source, any media is becoming more difficult every day. I really try to remember that with whatever I read or see, don’t blindly believe everything. Here is a link to some bloggers talking about it also.

2 | Gliding through Motherhood

January 11th, 2008 at 11:25 am


I haven’t seen the movie but when I recently had a tooth infection I realized what it must be like to get sick in the US. Suddenly I was faced with having to pay thousands of dollars to deal with a tooth infection/emergency root canal/complications and my insurance is only covering less than half of that. I can’t imagine worrying about the cost of going to the doctor every time I’ve had to go to the doctor in my life. Especially for people without insurance! gah!

3 | Carrie

January 11th, 2008 at 1:52 pm


I just rented this a few days ago and I found it shocking, too. The skinny teenage kid who was refused insurance because he was underweight – I couldn’t believe that.

Anyway, my only experience with the American system was several years ago when I was in the US on business, and woke up in the middle of the night with an ear infection that steadily worsened. I made a quick trip to a local emergency room and all was well until a couple of months later when I got a bill in the mail for $642. For an ear infection! For which they put three drops of something in my ear and gave me a script to pick up at the pharmacy in the morning! I do have international health insurance and I did eventually get my trip paid for through that, but I couldn’t believe the cost. I don’t blame that couple from the movie who refuse to even go cross-border shopping without insurance. It’s way too risky.

4 | Jared Spice

January 11th, 2008 at 4:28 pm


Moore isn’t a documentarist, he ‘work’ is full of half truths. His 9-11 hysteria piece was really weak – especially the financial numbers with which he played fast and loose. Don’t get me wrong, 9-11/Iraq were both wrong on many leveles, US healthcare is in fact sick, but it isn’t what he claims it to be. I’d like to hear his explanation why Cubans are willing to die (literally) trying to sneak into the US. He hasn’t moved to Canada yet. Hmmm….

5 | andrea

January 11th, 2008 at 4:56 pm


Jared… from JAT ? It’s been a long time!

I admit that M.M. is prone to exaggeration and likes to to sensationalize. He is a filmmaker by trade and he’s trying to make his points hit home with the help of a certain amount of drama, sure, but the bottom line here is still true: the healthcare system in the States is totally screwed up. I don’t think you can disagree with that.

6 | Marla

January 11th, 2008 at 8:39 pm


When I lived in the States, where I was born, once, I cut the tip of my index finger nearly off at the drycleaner’s where I worked. The padded part, to be specific. I was cutting a broken button off a coat to replace it, and the scissors slipped. I was alone in the storefront.

The next customer to come in, thankfully, was the wife of the doctor who used to be my pediatrician! She saw me all pale and hurting, looked at it, and called her husband. Based on her description (cuts more than a quarter of an inch on both sides, fatty tissue coming out, copious amounts of blood, the “flap” looking dead and white with no circulation) he told me it needed stitches, and probably a tetanus shot – go to the emergency room, or a doctor.

So, I called the boss – the boss who didn’t give benefits for that shitty job – and he said to wait until he could get there. So I did, because I was young and scared. In the meantime, I called the emergency room, and was told an ambulance would be $400, and the visit about $200, if I didn’t have insurance. Which I didn’t. And I had no credit cards, and I didn’t have $200, let alone $600, so I couldn’t even walk there – I was 18, and had just moved out from my folks, who weren’t happy about it at all. I called my regular doctor a friend who’d drive me. The doctor was having a day off, but was near his office and would pop in.

By the time my replacement got to the cleaner’s, my friend picked me up, and I got to the doctor’s office – the doctor had come and gone. I was S. O. O. L.

Across the medical complex was my pediatrician – the one whose wife had called him. I walked over there, and begged to be seen. I spent only long enough in the waiting room to catch a cold from one of the germy toddlers, then he stitched me up and gave me a shot. He also did not charge me – but told me to make up with my parents or to get a real job.

I’m typing this with a normal left index finger now because of him.


After I moved to Toronto, and established myself as a Permanent Resident, I had an injury one Christmas. I was bending over to plug in the Christmas Tree, and I heard a POP in my ankle. A ligament had snapped. My ankle swelled, I was in pain. My husband drove me to the hospital, and I got a steroid shot and was able to walk on it the next day.

If I’d still been in Buffalo, I’d have been in agony for weeks, because I just wouldn’t have gone to the hospital for that. Instead of being off work for however long, I was back at work right away.

Health care. It’s a good thing.

8 | scatteredmom

January 12th, 2008 at 2:19 pm


We refuse to cross that border to the USA without health insurance. It’s that simple.

Actually, during our summer road trips in the USA we are asked two main questions:

1. What do Canadians think of Bush?
2. So you have ‘free’ health care, huh? Must be NICE.

With family members that have chronic health conditions, it makes me thankful that we decided to stay in Canada.

9 | Julie

January 12th, 2008 at 10:25 pm


In SiCKO Michael Moore asked me to share with the world part of my husband’s 16 month battle for his right to receive possible life-saving treatments that my insurance provider and my employer continually denied. The Bone Marrow was our last hope, as everything my husbands Physician ordered was denied over and over, appeal after appeal. Death By Denial was my husbands fate. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but no one wants to stand up and fight until it happens to them. Everyone you see in SiCKO is a real person and their stories are very real and it could be you or someone you love. I get so sick of reading comments in which people say negative things about Michael Moore, I have met this man and he is one of the few honest people I have met. People need to take off the “ME” blinders and get on the “WE” wagon to make change in this country. For profit companies kill hundreds of us every day by stamping a “DENIED” on an order written by a Physician, you know the person that went to college for 10+ years so they could treat people to promote life… People in this country should spend less time trying to discredit those who are trying to make a difference and put their time and energy into positive changes. People need to support HR676 Universal Healthcare. Join us in our fight to make change. My husband is dead and I will be damed if I lose my son or anyone else I love ever again because of greedy, money profit driven companies and the people that work for them and I don’t want anyone else to go through it. I created a BLOG so I could tell my husbands entire story, so people could get the whole picture. All of us that were featured in SiCKO have joined together to fight for change. Please get involved, don’t wait until it happens to you. My BLOG is:

10 | hiwesunshine

January 13th, 2008 at 1:11 am


I think your premise that Americans are not furious is incorrect. I am furious with most everything about our current government and with many fellow Americans for continuing to elect these idiots.

11 | andrea

January 13th, 2008 at 10:09 am


Dear Julie – thank you for taking the time to comment. What happened to husband is absolutely tragic and shouldn’t happen to anyone.

As a Canadian, my main beef with the film was Moore’s misrepresentation of our healthcare system. On the whole, it’s great, and I am very happy that we have this kind of health care system in place, but it’s not perfect.

1) Wait times. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you a story about how long they waited in the emergency room. Whenever we’ve gone with one of our kids (and I should point out it’s always my husband who does this) we automatically assume he’s going to be 5 or 6 hours.

2) Wait times for certain treatments. There’s often something in the news about the wait for MRI scans. There aren’t enough of them to go around.

3) Shortage of doctors. When they moved to Ottawa, my inlaws couldn’t find a GP. My mother lives in a small town and hates her doctor, but there is no other and she’s stuck. A huge number of Canadians don’t have a regular family doctor and rely on walk-in clinics for treatment. There’s definitely something wrong with that.

But I have to say, none of this compares to losing a loved one the way you did. I was, and still am, shocked and horrified by how decent, regular Americans are treated down there.

Hiwesunshine, you said that Americans are furious. What is being done about this issue? How is that outrage manifesting itself? Where are the demonstrations? American voter turnout is low. And the fact remains, Bush got himself elected – TWICE. I mean, what the hell?

12 | Ln

January 13th, 2008 at 6:24 pm


I live in the US, and I haven’t seen Sicko. I think the thing about changing our healthcare system for a lot of us comes down to choosing between the devil you know and the devil you don’t. I’m hoping that Massachusett’s plan to get everyone in that state insured works well and can be copied through out the rest of the country.

While there are certainly problems with US healthcare, our system has it’s strengths too. I like being able to choose my doctor, and knowing that if someone in my family needs medical care, I’ll be able to get them an appointment in a reasonable amount of time. My parents lived in the UK for a while, and the healthcare system there didn’t offer those “luxuries”. I don’t know much about the Canadian system.

13 | tali

January 13th, 2008 at 7:45 pm


As an american, I gotta say that I really love the canadian system, which saved my daughter’s life (see blog) and my life as well once, at no cost to me. HOWEVER, recently my FIL was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to wait a month for a vital test they needed before he could start treatment…we called just to see how long it would take to get the same test just across the border in montana of all places – just a couple days.

I think if you have insurance (as I always had, in the states) the quality of care available can be the best in the world…but I prefer knowing that everyone has access to basic care.

Also, the wait time at children’s hospitals in north america is always a few hours – all the parents going in for gastros or high fevers!

14 | tali

January 13th, 2008 at 7:46 pm


ack the blog is above…

15 | Ryan

January 14th, 2008 at 11:22 pm


Growing up in America, my girlfriend has stories that no one in her family would go to the doctor when they were sick unless it was pretty bad (i.e. seemed to be on the edge of pneumonia), as it cost $50 just to walk in that door, never mind what the doctor prescribed afterwards. (She just talked with her mom the other day and found out it was $80 now without insurance). This is very different from the way my mom would take me in when something was developing (when we had an open evening, that is, due to the lines) and continues to tell me I should see a doctor if I’m under the weather.

I was listening to an episode of This American Life a few weeks ago about being Canadian and one contributor made a very good point: In Canada, we’re afraid things won’t or can’t change because no one has done it before. In the US, it’s the opposite – they feel afraid because it’s been that way for so long and many feel that it would be impossible to overhaul the system (think health care, pension, environmental laws – at least, for the better of all instead of for business). I think this holds at least some truth.

There are many, many Americans who are very angry about how they don’t have the health standards that are available to people in some third-world countries (truly, even here in Argentina there is public health care, not that it works the best). They just have no idea how to fight a system that so firmly has them in its grip. It’s really sad.

16 | Brian Newman

January 17th, 2008 at 1:55 am


When you talk to people here, you can easily get Health Care Horror stories as well!

Moore is good, but he is not always totally honest.

Did you realize that America is MUCH better for Men’s health care, and Canada for a Woman?

17 | Tonya

January 17th, 2008 at 11:24 am


I have watched Sicko and I was disgusted by it. I felt truly duped living in this country and being told all of these things to make us believe we are taking the best road.
For what it’s worth, ER trips take many, many hours here as well.

18 | meanie

January 18th, 2008 at 10:57 am


re. wait times: i have waited up to 8 hours with a wee one at emergency who had a weird rash and was uncomfortable with it (not-life threatening). i waited no more than 10 minutes when something more serious happened to a wee one and she needed to be seen right away. our emergency rooms have to prioritize, and unfortunately, the less urgent the case, the longer you have to wait. BUT IT’S FREE
my girl friend in states said it is outright scary, the delivery of her kids would have cost around $18 000 a pop (normal deliveries). her husband has a kick-ass job with great insurance, so they are lucky. not so lucky are the ones without kick ass jobs and without insurance. it gives me the shivers.

19 | Jared Spice

February 25th, 2008 at 4:07 pm


1 – I don’t think calling the US system ‘totally screwed up’ is a fair statement – Canadians are sent there for procedures that would take too long here. It does however need improvement. No duh.
2 – No one is defining what a good system is – we seem to be fixated on either fast or free neither of which are rational ways to judge the performance of either system’s ability to provide appropriate levels of health care.
3 – I never suggested Michael Moore was a bad guy – he seems pretty sincere – I did question his free wheeling nature with numbers. He doesn’t help the ’cause’ so to speak.
4 – $18,000 for a natural birth seems high to me but I’ll say only this – insurers get stuck with higher costs than the uninsured would pay since hospitals legally must treat people that show up in a condition that requires immediate treatment. Think of it as the hospital’s way to subsidize the non-insured.

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