What Really Ails Our Sicko Healthcare System?
A SpeakStrong Review of Michael Moore’s Latest Documentary


Said in a way we can hear this time
When Michael Moore released the documentary Fahrenheit 911, it created a firestorm. Michael Moore was a highly polarizing figure who seemed to invite both adulation and condemnation. I was offered a one-way ticket out of the country for suggesting his film had some value.

So it was curious to discover that Moore’s latest documentary, Sicko, silences most critics and draws rave reviews. The response is close to universally positive. I wanted to know …why?

Just to learn what the fuss was all about, my husband and I set a hot date to see Sicko. We didn’t go because we wanted to learn about health care in America. We already know about that. My husband was the Director of Managed Care for a hospital system for over a decade. He quit because “he got tired of kicking little old ladies out of the hospital.”

We went to Sicko to see what was different about this movie. We found out. Moore’s movie moved us, entertained us, and got us thinking. If we didn’t already know about the condition of healthcare, it would have educated us, as well.

The myth-buster
Michael Moore doesn’t just challenge US healthcare myths. He challenges common US assertions that America does everything right and everyone else does everything wrong. He challenges widely held US assumptions that America should be the exporter of ideas and policy and the importer only of consumer goods. He challenges some misinformed critical US images of third world countries – and even some of our images of other industrialized countries.

Moore also makes the shocking suggestion that you can both love America and learn from other nations.

Fair play? Well, pretty fair.
I suspect Moore didn’t play completely fair in his portrayal. I suspect he showed the worst of the US system and the best of the Canadian, French and Cuban systems. Still, he managed to get an apology from CNN for inaccuracies in their “debunk” of his movie. He also secured a CNN acknowledgement that he had been careful with his facts.

If that doesn’t surprise you, here’s something that might. Moore kept cheap shots to a minimum.

Yes, there were a few cheap shots, but nothing like the one he took when he showed Paul Wolfowitz licking his comb in Fahrenheit 911.

Yes, Moore freely named names, but this time he named the corporations without providing the faces of individual corporate spokespersons.

Yes, Moore tugged at heartstrings with sad and shocking individual stories, but this time he knew when to stop and shift into the backstory.

I am grateful to Moore for jump starting another important national conversation, and for doing it in a way to that I don’t have to apologize much for. Sicko is a great start of an important conversation. However, it doesn’t carry the conversation as far as I would like it to.

The rest of the story
Moore challenges some of what I see as false assumptions about healthcare in the US, but he reinforces others. Viewers are likely to walk away from his new film thinking the only problem with healthcare in America is that profit both limits access to those who can't afford it and in turn results in denial of care.

I think there are more basic issues that Moore barely touches on.

Like the common practice of suppressing symptoms instead of treating the cause.

Like the use of drugs and procedures that are stronger than needed despite possible complications.

Like a reactive approach that puts little emphasis on prevention. Such as lifestyles that keep us on treadmills that we only get off when we’re too sick to suppress it anymore.

I can dream, can’t I?
There’s one thing I consider a major contributor to health issues that Moore completely ignores – harm that comes from inauthentic communication and a failure to Speak Strong. Of course I didn’t expect Michael Moore to discuss that it in Sicko, but I can dream, can’t I? Since he doesn’t say it, I will.

I believe if everyone said what they meant and meant what they said without being mean when they said it, things would be messy for a while, but ultimately we would have far less need for medical intervention.

An unlikely role model?
No, not surprisingly, Moore didn’t talk about the ill effects of forbidden topics on health. But he did demonstrate that one person can jumpstart an important conversation.

Did you know? He’s also demonstrating that even the hard core can adopt a healthier life style. He’s now taking walks and eating vegetables.

Could Michael Moore be a role model? Well, let’s just say he’s moving in the right direction.

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Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at www.speakstrong.com.

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