Michael Moore continues to be a polarizing figure another controversial film about the American health care system. His style is never objective or balanced - he is always out to make a statement. In Sicko, he is critical of the political and health care establishment for keeping the U.S. as the only industrialized country without universal health care.
He contends that the American system of private medical insurance is a disaster, and that a state-run system, such as exists nearly everywhere else in the industrialized world, would be better. This argument is illustrated with anecdotes and statistics — terrible stories about Americans denied medical care or forced into bankruptcy to pay for it; grim actuarial data about life expectancy and infant mortality; damning tallies of dollars donated to political campaigns.
What is different about this film is that he condemns both sides of the political divide and it is likely neither Democrats or Republicans would disagree with his description of the problems with the U.S. system.
With evident glee Moore sets out to challenge some widely held American notions about socialized medicine in the second half of the film. He finds that British doctors are happy and well paid, that Canadians don’t have to wait very long in emergency rooms, and that the French are not taxed into penury. “What’s your biggest expense after the house and the car?” he asks an upper-middle-class French couple. “Ze feesh,” replies the wife. “Also vegetables.”
The reality is that these systems are not perfect and they are not free. In Canada, we pay for health care but there is one big insurance pool operated by the government. You pay in your entire working life and when you need care (often when you are a senior) you get it. Resources are rationed which means you sometimes need to wait for some services but you are never denied services you need. A colleague developed a detached retina which was surgically repaired the same day. However, if I want a routine eye exam with an opthamologist I better plan ahead and book it 4 months in advance. They system works.
So when Moore suggests that you don't wait in Canadian emergency rooms that is just not correct. You might wait hours if you do not exhibit life threatening symptoms. But you will never be turned away. So we accept that we might have to wait so that someone with more serious problems can get looked after.
If that's socialism, then call us socialists.