'Sicko': A Universal Nightmare

Waiting four months for an MRI, sitting for seemingly interminable hours in emergency rooms and having cancer surgery considered “elective” are a few of the risks those countries with universal healthcare take. If America listens to Democrats and Michael Moore, waiting lists, under-funding and less medical options are the future of American healthcare. I watched “Sicko” on the internet, where a bootleg copy was posted before the film’s release.

Moore’s new film, released June 29, attacks the American healthcare system, trying to make a case that patients in communist Cuba get better care. The documentary targets viewer’s emotions with heart-wrenching stories of Americans without health insurance. The selective illustrations divide the film into chapters of misfortune — ignoring details — such as the higher taxes and doctor shortages that accompany the socialist model medicine Moore seems to love. 

Moore — as usual, the “star” of his own film — visits Britain, Canada, France and Cuba — to portray their “universal” systems as superior to ours. But how much better is care you have to wait for no matter how urgently you need it? In April 2007, Cato Institute Director of Health and Welfare Studies Michael Tanner wrote that Britain’s Department of Health “reported in 2006 that at any given time, nearly 900,000 Britons are waiting for admission to National Health Service hospitals, and shortages force the cancellation of more than 50,000 operations each year.”

Moore portrays the American healthcare system as a bureaucratic machine designed to cheat citizens, glorify lobbyists and fatten the wallets of politicians who are accommodating to the industry.

“Giving people more power and control over their health care and health insurance creates new incentives for people to be more engaged in managing their health,” said Grace-Marie Turner, founder and President of the Galen Institute, a non¬profit research organization that advances ideas for market-based health reform at women’s luncheon in March.

“Sicko” harps on America’s 45 million citizens without health insurance, but withholds the fact that — of the 45 million — many are only temporarily uninsured. Stuart Browning speaks nationally on health care freedom and the myths of "single-payer" medicine,  and recently produced a series of short films to counteract “Sicko.” His research found that 26 million uninsured make at least $50-75,000 a year.

Browning found that 18 million of the uninsured are young adults who spend income on entertainment and alcohol instead of managing their health. Moore (good socialist that he is) wants to compensate for those who are careless about their own health — not just the unlucky minority. 

As the camera scours hospital waiting rooms in Canada and healthcare facilities in Britain, we hear the word “free” over and over again. But universal healthcare is far from free. Those are tax dollars working on overload — to pay not only for the people with serious, costly illness but also those with preventative sickness, like things brought on by obesity, smoking, and other irresponsible choices. In the  free market,  is that we have choices. Healthcare costs necessarily  rise under the quasi-welfare system because people won’t have to care about finding the most cost effective treatment.

These realities Moore ignores.  Another is the fact that just because someone in America lacks health insurance doesn’t mean that they can’t or don’t get health care.

As physician and Manhattan Institute scholar David Gratzer put it, “let’s not confuse a lack of health insurance with a lack of health care.” There are many free health clinics available for anyone — including 12 million non-taxpaying illegal immigrants — nationwide.

Moore asserts that Americans without insurance are essentially abandoned, which anyone who can read a newspaper knows is a simply untrue. The federal government mandates that emergency rooms treat all who seek medical attention regardless of payment ability. One emergency room nurse told me that, although patients are asked for identification and social security numbers in the emergency room, they aren’t required for treatment.

“The ER is always busy — busy with lots of patients that shouldn’t be there… the people abusing Medicaid — with minor problems and taking away from those with real needs,” my sister, a licensed E.M.T. and nurse tech told me. The problems of today’s emergency waiting rooms are small peanuts compared to what we would face with nationalized healthcare.

Browning profiles one Canadian who hired a private medical broker to get him quick attention for what turned out to be a brain tumor. The status quo in Canada could have taken up to 8 months for a surgery he received almost instantly in America.

When Moore glorifies Cuba as a healthcare haven, he misrepresents that those without money or elite status in Cuba are given adequate healthcare. In truth, the general population suffers. According to the web site,, “Foreigners who visit Cuba…are fed the official line from Castro’s propaganda machine: ‘All Cubans are now able to receive excellent healthcare’…[but] Cubans who require medical attention must go to other hospitals, that lack the most minimum requirements…” (The site features gruesome photos of the inhumane conditions in many Cuban hospitals and citizen testimony’s of their outrageous experiences.)

In Canada, it’s not so brutal but it isn’t good. In 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in Chaoulli v. Quebec that the ban on private health insurance the unreasonable delays for medical care infringed on basic human rights to life, liberty and personal security. What a great model for America to adopt. If the Michael Moore Democrats have their way, you too may someday have to wait for urgent medical care.