When Michael Moore’s documentary about the U.S. health care system, Sicko, opened in theaters last June, I wasn’t feeling too well myself. In fact, I was sitting in my bedroom waiting for a visit from the home health nurse. Two weeks earlier, I had endured open-heart surgery to replace a congenitally defective aortic valve and a good bit of my ascending aorta. My cardiovascular system now sports a mechanical valve and a section of Dacron hose, so you can call me the Bionic Columnist.
But enough about me. I did finally get to see Sicko in a theater—in our small-town multiplex, no less. And, as you probably know by now, it is a masterful, funny, gut-wrenching, and ultimately touching appeal for Americans to radically change the way health care is financed and distributed in our country.
The film is replete with muckraking stories of the human damage caused by a health care system driven by greed. But like all of his work, from Roger & Me onward, Sicko is, at its core, Moore’s rumination on what’s been done to his people—the multiracial American working class—and how they might find a way to do something about their shared plight.
Fortunately, I didn’t suffer the fate of Sicko’s health care victims. Although I am covered by an insurance company that is indicted for murder in Moore’s film, I am also a state government employee. As things go these days, my family policy is a relatively good one. But we do have all the usual co-pays and 20 percents. So while I did deep-breathing exercises and read a biography of I.F. Stone, my wife, Polly, watched carefully as the bills rolled in.