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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sicko, Part 2

I’ve seen most of Michael Moore’s latest movie. It’s one of his better ones, complete with laugh-out-loud narration like “His anti-Americanism was too much for me”.

The thing to remember when watching his movies is that they are not documentaries. They are propaganda disguised as journalism. As long as you understand that, you’ll be fine.

Documentaries are supposed to have a coherent message, and they do need to tell a story. They can even blatantly lobby for a particular political action, and I won’t complain. But they don’t leave out important details that could make the viewer come to the opposite conclusion. They don’t stage scenes for the purpose of leaving a false impression. And they don’t string technically-true sentences together in a way that implies something incorrect.

It's too bad, because reforming health care is something I could really get behind. I don't think our system is great, but the American system isn't working either. I'd like to watch a film like this and be inspired to change the world. Unfortunately, I spent the time thinking that Mr. Moore could have put his energy into making a real documentary that would have had the same message and been more effective (but less shocking).

I really can’t speak for the European countries featured in the movie, although I’ve decided that if even half of it is true, I definitely want to move to France. I can tell you a few facts about Canada, though:

  • Mr. Moore follows an American across the border, where she lies to the border guard and then lies to the admin staff at two medical clinics so she can see a doctor “for free”. Here’s the thing: It’s not really free to see a doctor here. Provinces and territories issue health cards to residents. Each card has a number used for billing. If you go to an Ontario clinic with an Alberta health card, the government of Ontario will send a bill to Alberta, thanks to something called “reciprocal billing”. If your home province doesn’t have a reciprocal billing arrangement with the province you’re visiting, you will pay the full cost of your care and send your receipts to your provincial government so they can reimburse you. We do not provide free health care to international tourists. The poor woman who crossed the border is going to get a bill.
  • It wasn’t shown on film, but I can’t imagine that this woman would have been able to see a doctor that day unless it was a special drop-in clinic. I usually have to wait at least three weeks to get an appointment with a GP. I’ve seen a neurologist once in the past seven years. (I have epilepsy.)
  • I would like Mr. Moore to tell me which ER sees patients within 20 minutes, because I plan to start going there.
  • We do indeed think it’s a good idea to buy travel insurance when visiting the United States.
  • Although he spends a lot of time talking about free medicine in Europe, there are no free medical supplies in Canada. If you have a chronic illness, you better hope you have insurance. Clinic visits are nothing compared to the cost of medicine.
  • Our doctors work for the government, live very well and provide excellent care.