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'Sicko' could cure American apathy

Commentator and consumer advocate Jamie Court

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Doug Krizner: "Sicko" is the latest film from Michael Moore. It's about how the U.S. health system leaves millions uninsured and allows insurance companies to profit by selectively denying care. It's scheduled for release this Friday. Commentator Jamie Court thinks this may be the beginning of something.


JAMIE COURT: Films that strike at the heart of intense national frustration can become the tipping point for social and political change.

Take "The China Syndrome." It showed a nuclear power-plant meltdown that resulted from penny pinching and lax regulatory oversight. Twelve days after the film's release, America witnessed the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S. ground to a halt.

Al Gore's 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," put global warming on the public map. Oil companies all finally admitted this year that they had a hand in climate change.

No one knows for sure if the movies were the tipping point, but they sure didn't hurt.

The power of a movie to distill hot-button issues and transcend political gridlock is probably why the head of the HMO lobby started responding to "Sicko" weeks before its release.

"Sicko" aims to engage us emotionally about living, in a nation where patients with insurance are denied coverage when they need it most because of the fine print in their policies.

Where an uninsured patient who loses two fingers to a saw must choose which one to re-attach because of the cost, while a man in Canada with the same problem gets an operation that saves his whole hand for free.

Where our government leaders tout the high-quality health care detainees get at Guantanamo Bay, but won't provide free medical care to volunteer 9-11 relief workers with lung disease.

Seeing free public medicine in England, France and Canada — complete with house calls and cab fare back from the hospital — is enough to make any American laugh and cry.

Moore's genius, and his goal, is to stir these sentiments. But will it be enough to put private insurers out of business in favor of a universal Medicare program?

That all depends on Americans. Do Americans really want to fear government more than we want government to fear and serve us?

Krizner: Jamie Court is president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

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