In this video from the USA, Ms
Reggie Cervantes, 9/11 responder in movie “Sicko”, talks about U.S. Treasury investigation of their trip to Cuba.
Another video about this film is here.
This film, as usually with Michael Moore, is a documentary about a serious subject, treated humouristically. The subject of this film is health care in the USA, compared to elsewhere.
50 million people in the USA do not have health insurance. Leading to poignant opening scenes in the film. First, a man with a bad leg wound, which he amateuristically tries to cure himself, being unable to afford a doctor. Then, shots of a man of whom two fingers were sawed off. He cannot afford financially to have both fingers restored, so he chooses just his ring finger. If he would have had fifty thousand dollars more, his middle finger would have been restored as well. However, he did not have those dollars, so his middle finger went to a landfill. At least, this man is still alive. An estimated 18,000 people a year die in the USA, the richest country in the world, from not being medically insured.
The film, Michael Moore says, is not about those 50 million uninsured US Americans. He then continues with the 250 million Americans who do have health insurance. Are they safe from the nightmares which uninsured Americans get in case of illness? Often not, in turns out. Health insurance in the USA is through so-called HMO’s, health maintenance organizations. These are private for profit corporations. The neutrality of the Wikipedia article about HMO’s is disputed. Doctors working for HMO’s get more money the more they exclude patients from medical treatment. While one might expect from a naïve, non-HMO fat cat, point of view, that a doctor’s income would rise the more persons’ health he or she would improve.
This pro profit, anti patient, health care system in the USA could be established, the film says, because lobbyists for it shout Socialism! as a scare word to discredit possible alternatives. However, in fact, the film continues, universal health care is the rule in Western capitalist countries apart from the USA. The film interviews a Canadian amateur golf player, who is also a member of that country’s conservative party. He got muscle problems while playing in Florida, USA. He was very happy that he could return to Canada and be cured there for free under the Canadian health care system. If he would have stayed in the USA, it would have cost him ten thousands of dollars. All political parties, including conservatives, in Canada, the interviewee says, support free health care.
Another interviewee, British ex MP Tony Benn, of the left wing of the Labour Party, says that even hardline Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did not privatize the British National Health Service (though she, and her successor Blair, privatized many other things like railways and water, often with disastrous consequences). According to Benn, there came free and universal health care to Britain in 1948, when it was very poor just after the second world war. It was based on the idea that, if society can be mobilized for killing people in wars, then it can also be mobilized for better collective goals like improving health care. The idea of solidarity was important. Benn explained the introduction of free health care from democracy. In the USA, the poorest half of the people are discouraged from voting and in fact often do not vote. So, health care policy there is lopsided in favour of the super rich minority.
When the scene of the film moves to France, the idea of democracy and health care is further elaborated upon. In France, an interviewee says, the government is afraid of the people. If the people don’t like policies which hurt them, there will be massive anti government demonstrations; some footage of which is in the film. While, on the other hand, in the USA, the people are afraid of the government. If they are dependent on jobs which have at least some limited health care insurance, as a favour, not as a real right, then, even if they do not like those jobs, they will feel less free to rebel.
The movie points out that child mortality is higher in the USA than in many other countries. Average life expectancy in the USA is lower than Canada, Britain, France. Even lower than the small country of Cuba, since 1960 suffering from an economic boycott by the USA, traditionally its main trading partner (in an unequal way). In the 1990s, Cuba suffered again as its next main trading partner, the Soviet Union, collapsed.
Even so, the last part of the film was shot in Cuba. Director Moore goes there on small ships, with people who became ill as they helped victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Many of them became ill; and in many cases, they could not get health care under United States rules. First, Moore and the patients try to go to Guantanamo Bay. That United States base, according to an early twentieth century Cuban-US agreement, can only be used by US armed forces for supplying their Navy steamships with coal. So, establishing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, infamous for torture, there, is against that agreement. Supporters in the USA of Guantanamo Bay camp point out that supposedly all detainees are Al Qaeda members (though no one has been convicted for that supposed membership). They also point out in defense of that camp that camp inmates, contrary to most US citizens, do get universal health care. So, Michael Moore said, let us go to Guantanamo Bay, to see whether 9/11 rescue workers can get the same quality health care there as supposed terrorists; which they are not getting right now in and around New York.
They cannot; Michael Moore’s fleet of boats is not admitted to Guantanamo Bay. They then go to the parts of Cuba not occupied by US armed forces. There, Ms Reggie Cervantes, whose health was ruined by her helping 9/11 victims in New York City, enters a Cuban pharmacy. Being a Latina US citizen, she can talk with the pharmacy people in Spanish. Here, she can buy medicines which she needs for the equivalent of just five US dollar cents; while in her own USA they cost an unaffordable 120 dollars. Ms Cervantes starts to cry as she finds this out.
While this, on the whole, excellent film, may be an eye opener to chauvinistic US Americans who may think nothing can be learned from other countries, I should add a note of criticism here. The ideas of privatization, including in health care, did not only have influence in the USA of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. They also, though less drastically, so far and to be hoped forever, did have influence, more than the film Sicko suggests, in, eg, West European countries. Let them learn from this film that they should stop immediately with this road to the disasters of privatization.
Classic Cuban films on DVD: here.