Conversation about Michael Moore’s SICKO
between Patch Adams, M.D. and Susan Parenti, Ph.D.
July 12, 2007
Susan Parenti: What do you think of the film, SICKO?
Patch Adams: WOW–I’m juiced! The film is terrific. Bravo, Michael Moore!!
Susan: I feel that way too. I highly recommend the film, especially to people who say, “Oh, I don’t like Michael Moore’s films”. This is not about liking Michael Moore; this is about seeing our own muddled thinking on the US health care system, and why we Americans tolerate the intolerable.
Patch: Moore does an incredible new thing: he focuses on people in the US who already have insurance, people who say, “No problem, I’m covered”—rather than focus on the uninsured.
Susan: But lack of health insurance is a huge problem in the US. Why do you think he does this?
Patch: By now we’ve heard about the 50 million uninsured Americans and what happens to them. But in the present socio-political environment, people don’t care about the poor, the uninsured—they’re just the disenfranchised, the “losers”. By Moore deciding to focus on the 250 million Americans who DO have insurance, he’s talking to a much bigger group of people. That’s smart.
Susan: I guess by Moore’s focusing on the insured—who are supposed to have access to the medical system—he’s able to show that having insurance doesn’t mean having access to health care. In the US, insurance is NOT equivalent to health care. That’s the SICKO part. It’s a condemnation of the whole system, not only a condemnation of lack of access to it by some people.
Patch: True. The film is about the greed and the inexcusability that we are not taking care of everyone in this country. How in the US do we tolerate that restoring a person’s ring finger costs $12,000, and the middle finger, $60,000? How can anyone contemplate that and not feel damaged by the vulgarity of the greed? And Moore shows that the insurance companies HUNT for ways not to give you care. They HUNT.
What did you think of the comparison with other countries’ health care systems?
Susan: It’s a great jolt: by the film going back and forth between what we Americans tolerate and what citizens of other countries enjoy–it’s jolting. So while I cried for the people whose husband or child died because of lack of care in the US, I then was gladdened by the health care provided in other places, and THEN became furious at what we put up with here. Tears, gladness, and fury: all three are needed. We could live differently–the film shows this, again and again, by pointing at other countries.
Patch: I liked the hint for us to re-consider Cuba and France as countries to admire and take a look at.
Susan: What do you think the title SICKO refers to?
Patch: I think it refers to the US health care delivery system AND to the fact that we Americans tolerate it. The system is SICKO and–we’re SICKO. I thought it really smart the film didn’t show anything that would be refuted–though I’m sure the insurance companies are seeking examples of mistakes in order to discredit this film.
Susan: One of the ways of discrediting the film that I’ve recently read is to say that it doesn’t “offer any solutions”, i.e., it doesn’t talk about the current health care reforms happening in the US. Would you share that criticism?
Patch: Absolutely not. The film IS offering something: it’s painting a portrait of greed, as it works systematically. And by showing how other countries have solutions, it’s indicating that we don’t have to put up with this. The film is raising the level of discontent–that’s a positive direction.
Susan: Yes. It’s showing what we tolerate as intolerable. I think of SICKO more as a “think-u-ment-ary” than a “documentary”: it creates a pathway of thinking, where we can see that we’re putting up with something that is fundamentally undesirable, and that we don’t have to put up with it.
Patch: Maybe it’s a “think-you-meant-ary”, or a “think-I-meant-ary”?
Susan: Right, and leaving for us to create the “act-on-what-I-think-I-meant-ary”.
Patch: One more thing: I loved how Michael Moore treated the person who writes the “I-hate-Michael-Moore” blogs. The Moore-hater initially had to close his website because his wife had become ill and the man didn’t have money/time to keep up the Moore-hating blog—so Moore sends the guy an anonymous check for his wife’s care, so that the Moore-hater can continue his Moore-hating work! Now, that’s a love strategy–to keep your adversary healthy. It’s funny, ironic, and caring.