Tag Archives: Michael Moore

Divine Intervention

Now I’m certainly not the kind of Christian who believes that God is some kind of cosmic puppeteer, and that he will manipulate the rules of the world at the request of his followers. There are however some who do, check out this video from Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family, the conservative evangelical group headed by James Dobson in the US. Here he is calling for a massive storm to hit the open air acceptance speech by Barack Obama – thereby sending a message as to who God wants to win the election.

As everybody now knows, there wasn’t any kind of storm that hit Denver on that night, but for those God fearing Christians who believe in an interventionist God who will show them who to vote for in the upcoming election, Michael Moore has pointed out that there is a big storm on the way. Hurricane Gustav is currently heading straight for New Orleans, a city which need anyone forget was decimated by Hurricane Katrina three years ago, whilst George W Bush and Senator McCain celebrated McCains 69th birthday in Arizona. Not surprisingly although some of New Orleans has been repaired, residents are once again fleeing the coast.

The interesting thing is the current prediction of when Hurricane Gustav will make landfall – just around the time George W Bush will be speaking to the Republican faithful at the upcoming convention. The timing isn’t lost on the Republicans either, who are even now talking about postponing the conference – whether it is postponed or not, the news media is already reporting that Bush will now not attend.

Now if I believed that God would manipulate the weather to influence the result of the US election, the idea of sending a repeat of Hurricane Katrina, something that produced significant criticism of Bush in terms of both preceding policy and over the response does seem to indicate a rather perverse sense of humour on behalf of the almighty. But seeing as this is hurricane season, as far as I am concerned it is just a rather ironic coincidence. Whether the Focus on the Family on the family crowd will have some great epiphany as a result I seriously doubt as well. All we can do is hope that the US is better prepared this time and that the loss of life can be minimised.

A Halloween Nightmare

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This week alongside all the usual horror movies that get shown for Halloween, another ‘horror’ movie opened on cinema screens here in the UK – Sicko, the new film from Michael Moore.

First off, if your usual choice of cinema snack is a hot dog, particularly with ketchup, I’d seriously suggest something else for going to see this film. The opening sequence is an internet video of an American, who not having health insurance, decides to sew up a gash in his own knee. This gets followed up by a guy who, having cut the tops off two of his fingers with a table saw and again not having health insurance is told that it will cost $12,000 to reattach one finger, and $60,000 to attach the other – he opts for the $12,000 finger and the other one gets binned… But then it transpires that the film is not actually primarily going to be about people without health insurance, the main topic of the film is the people who have health insurance and can’t get treated either!

By way of comparison during the movie, Moore compares the situation in the USA with other countries in the world. The USA is pretty well unique in that it spends a larger proportion of it’s resources that anywhere else on healthcare, but according to a WHO report ranks only 37th. The choices of comparison though are interesting, starting with Canada – a system with which Beth is of course familiar, moving on to the UK with which I grew up, then taking in France, and finally finishing off with Cuba.

Perhaps the first comment I think both Beth and myself would make is that the film does portray both the Canadian and British health systems in a universally positive light. Certainly there is no talk of the multitude of stories about the British NHS in the press. Having said that, when you compare it to some of the horror stories from people in the US you realise that the basic fact that in the UK you’re not generally going be landed with a bill for a hospital stay, or visiting your doctor you realise that Moore is really showing basic principles, and is focusing on the core message, which is that all these other places manage to have affordable, accessible medical care for their people, but the US can’t.

I guess as we’re within the system, we probably become a bit blasé about the fact that when we can just go and see our GP, or even get taken to hospital in an ambulance without having to worry about the cost.

When Moore was putting the film together, he put out a request on his website for any healthcare stories and in return got tens of thousands of replies. Amongst those featured are a couple where the husband had multiple heart attacks and then the wife went down with cancer. Although they had medical insurance, they still had to pay an excess on each claim, and that ultimately has resulted in them having to sell their house. There are also people who on being rushed unconscious to a hospital after a car accident received a bill for the ambulance because she didn’t pre-clear the journey with her insurance company. There were also a number of examples of people whose treatment was denied by the medical insurers for a variety of reasons including technicalities over the initial medical forms. There were several people featured whose relatives had died – in one case a child with a seizure who having been rushed to the closest hospital was refused treatment because it wasn’t on the approved list from the insurance company. By the time the child was transferred to an approved hospital she was dead.

The finale of the film looks at the problems that some of the volunteer workers clearing up after the September 11th attacks have suffered – initially the government only agreed to fund medical treatment for those on the government payroll. Even though there is now a fund to support these volunteers the programme showed several who are suffering particularly breathing problems after working on the site, and who are struggling to make ends meet. From there, the film highlighted the level of care that is being given to inmates in Guantanamo Bay, and then went on to show the medical services that the average Cuban receives.

Certainly Moore could be accused of portraying the US system largely negatively, alongside a strongly positive portrayal of the Canadian, British, French and Cuban health systems. But even if you watch the film knowing that, and being aware of some of the issues in the other systems shown, you cannot fail to be shocked and disturbed by the state of healthcare in the USA. It also serves as a salutary lesson for whenever someone over here argues for how great a privately funded medical system would be in the UK – staff in parts of the US health companies are given bonuses for saving money for their employer by denying treatment. Walking out of the film, for all it’s problems, you do feel rather glad that we have the NHS. Having said that, once you’ve seen some the benefits the French get compared to the UK it’s enough to make you want to up sticks and move there!