Sicko, Michael Moore's new film, is ostensibly about health care in America; it's not, any more than Moby Dick is about a fishing trip. Like Moore's other documentaries (Fahrenheit 9-11, Bowling for Columbine), Sicko's central theme is American democracy -- how it works, where it doesn't -- and the culture of capital. Moore's a polarizing figure -- the right wing loves to hate him, and at the same time much of the left wing hates to love him: I know many people who agree with Moore's ideas and yet despise how he articulates them, if only because his arguments are designed to provoke a general response more than they are to prove a particular point.
But, like Fahrenheit 9-11 and Bowling for Columbine, Sicko certainly tackles a topic worthy of discussion, and Moore's quick to explain that his film isn't about the 50 million people in America without health care -- although an opening anecdote about a man who loses two fingertips in an accident and, without insurance, is told it'll cost $60,000 to re-attach his middle finger but only $12,000 to re-attach the tip of his ring finger demonstrates that life without healthcare is pretty bad. Instead, "This is about the 250 million of us who have health insurance, who are living the American dream."
And Moore makes the point -- swiftly and well -- that even health care isn't healthcare; bureaucracy, the labyrinth of paperwork and weasel-word legal language about pre-existing conditions and denial of service all make having coverage as much of a challenge as lacking it. A listing of pre-existing conditions which will make you ineligible for health care coverage flies past in the style of the opening credits of Star Wars; it's a nice visual, and it gets a laugh, but does it really convey the facts of the matter?