I love to admit I’m wrong, especially in a case like this one. I must admit that, when I first learned that Michael Moore was making a movie called "SICKO," I feared that the then-film-in-progress was going to take the tack that “we have this wonderful health care in this country, but only the rich can afford it.”
I came to this conclusion that Moore was on the wrong track, because of the “plea for medical horror stories” on his site, where he wrote:
"Have you ever found yourself getting ready to file for bankruptcy because you can't pay your kid's hospital bill, and then you say to yourself, "Boy, I sure would like to be in Michael Moore's health care movie!?
“Or, after being turned down for the third time by your HMO for an operation they should be paying for, do you ever think to yourself, 'Now THIS travesty should be in that 'Sicko' movie!'?
“Or maybe you've just been told that your father is going to have to just, well, die because he can't afford the drugs he needs to get better – and it's then that you say, ‘Damn, what did I do with Michael Moore's home number?!’”
I worried that the above quotes implied that Moore might have been influenced by the pharmaceutical companies’ excellent PR on their own behalf.
I am happy to say that I couldn't have been more wrong about Michael Moore.
The first sign that Moore was, indeed, on the right track occurred on August 21st, 2006, when "Advertising Age" reported that “Michael Moore Documentary Rattles Health-Care Giants.” Rich Thomaselli wrote of Michael Moore's film:
“The health-care industry is worried sick over ‘Sicko.’ Pharmaceutical companies have told their employees not to talk to documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, whose next project, 'Sicko,' looks at health care in the U.S."
“Added a spokesman for one of the top 10 pharma companies: ‘We expect it will be one-sided and biased, just like his other documentaries.’
“Several other pharmaceutical makers did not return calls for comment. But Pfizer, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline all advised their employees last year not to speak to Mr. Moore when he began his research for ‘Sicko.’ It is not known whether any HMOs or drug companies will appear in the film.
“‘We were approached, but declined,’ said a spokeswoman for a second top-10 drugmaker. ‘Frankly, as much as we felt like we wanted to get our message across, in the end we didn't want to subject ourselves to the editing process.’”
Moore, for his part, never loses his sense of humor over the lack of cooperation from industry spokespersons. (I don’t doubt that he found plenty of “talkers” without “official” cooperation!) The article went on to say:
“‘They're so hip [to me] that whenever we have a family’ with a health-care nightmare ‘they get free health care,’ Mr. Moore said during panel discussions last month at his second annual Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. ‘There has been a 100% success rate of the people we're filming of getting whatever they need from the HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, whatever.’”
It's been almost a year since that Advertising Age article was written. Now we know that Moore took some of his film's participants/patients (three 9/11 Ground Zero "first responders," who developed respiratory problems resulting from their patriotic efforts) to Cuba to get the medical care they couldn't get in this country. And our government has launched an investigation to see whether Moore's trip violated U.S. law. (As one of my favorite blogs, The Health Care Blog, pointed out on May 11, 2007: "you can't buy publicity like this!")
Now that "SICKO" was such a stunning success at Cannes, Moore is experiencing an ironic "double whammy": being investigated by our government, and being hailed as one of the boldest filmmakers ever. Even the ultra-conservative Fox News has praised the film, calling it "brilliant and uplifting."
"SICKO" opens on June 29th nationwide. Stay tuned for more. But, until then, please accept my apologies, Michael Moore. I should have known you wouldn't be influenced by Big Pharma’s marketing ploys!
Click here to see the trailer for "SICKO."
(You may also Click here to read my "Open Letter to Michael Moore," which contains the very touching account of my husband Tim's meeting with Michael Moore, as well as some pretty terrifying medical "horror stories" Tim and I experienced during the 15 years following his brain tumor diagnosis.)