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Sicko (2007)

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Sicko is a 2007 documentary film by American filmmaker Michael Moore. The film investigates health care in the United States, focusing on its health insurance and the pharmaceutical industry. The film compares the for-profit, non-universal U.S. system with the non-profit universal health care systems of Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Cuba.

Sicko was made on a budget of approximately $9 million, and grossed $24.5 million theatrically in the United States. This box office result met the official expectation of The Weinstein Company, which hoped for a gross in line with Bowling for Columbine's $21.5 million US box office gross.

Synopsis

According to Sicko, almost fifty million Americans are uninsured while the remainder, who are covered, are often victims of insurance company fraud and red tape. Interviews are conducted with people who thought they had adequate coverage but were denied care. Former employees of insurance companies describe cost-cutting initiatives that give bonuses to insurance company physicians and others to find reasons for the company to avoid meeting the cost of medically necessary treatments for policy holders, and thus increase company profitability.

In Canada, Moore describes the case of Tommy Douglas, who was voted the greatest Canadian in 2004 for his contributions to the Canadian health system. Moore also interviews a microsurgeon and people waiting in the emergency room of a Canadian public hospital.

Against the backdrop of the history of the American health care debate, opponents of universal health care are set in the context of 1950s-style anti-communist propaganda. A 1960s record distributed by the American Medical Association, narrated by Ronald Reagan, warns that universal health care could lead to lost freedoms and socialism. In response, Moore shows that socialized public services like police, fire service, the United States Postal Service, public education and community libraries have not led to communism in the United States.

The origins of the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973 are presented using a taped conversation between John Ehrlichman and President Richard Nixon on February 17, 1971; Ehrlichman is heard telling Nixon that "...the less care they give them, the more money they make", a plan that Nixon remarked "fine" and "not bad". This led to the expansion of the modern HMO-based health care system. Connections are highlighted between Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the lobbying arm of the largest drug companies in the United States, lobbying groups in Washington D.C., and the Congress. Hillary Clinton, a champion of the Clinton health care plan, is shown as a crusader for change, appointed to reform the health care system in the United States by her husband, newly elected President Bill Clinton. Her efforts are met with heavy-handed criticisms by Republicans on Capitol Hill, and right-wing media throughout the country, who characterize her plan as the harbinger of socialism. When she is defeated, her punishment is to "never speak of it again while in the White House." Seven years later, her silence is rewarded, as she becomes a Senator for the State of New York, a victory made possible in part by money from the health care industry; she is second only to Rick Santorum as the Senate's highest recipient of health care industry campaign donations.