Sicko's Michael Moore

Cannes Film Fest 2007–Interview with Michael Moore, whose eagerly-awaited documentary “Sicko,” about the messy and nasty America health system, received its world premiere at the Cannes Festival (Out of Competition).

Origins of the Idea

M: We started thinking about this film back in 1999. I wrote the outline and even shot a couple of scenes back then. I had a TV show called “The Awful Truth,” and for the first episode, we filmed a guy who was having trouble getting his insurance company to pay for an organ transplant. Within a matter of days, we were able to save the guy's life and get him his operation.

More Burning Issues

Then we thought, what if we made a whole movie out of this, just take 10 people and spend 10 minutes of the film on each of them, trying to save their lives. But then the Columbine incident happened and we put it aside to make that film. Then the Iraq War was starting, and there seemed an urgent need to make a film about that. But it's always been on the forefront of our minds.

Using the Website

I started by asking readers of my website to submit their health care horror stories, and one theme slowly emerged: Frustration with the bureaucracy that exists to essentially make it very difficult to get help or to get that help paid for, even though people or their employers have paid into the system for it.

Myth of the Private Sector

One of the big myths is that the private sector is the way to go, because there's less red tape and it's more efficient. In fact, the opposite is true, especially with health care. Health Care companies spend upwards of 25 percent of their budgets on paperwork, administrative costs and other red tape, while Medicare and Medicaid only spend around 3 percent for administrative costs.

Impact of Horror Stories

It was very emotional and very difficult. You had people saying, “I'm going to die if I don't get help,” Or, “My mother is dying.” I felt helpless about what I can do, and it deeply affected everybody working on the film.

Canada Just a Few Miles North

We also knew most of the film wouldn't be focusing on these horror stories, but rather we'd be explaining how they wouldn't be going through any of this if they just lived in Canadaand for some people who wrote in, the border was just a few miles north.

Putting the Blame

People want to know who deserves the blame for the messy health care situation: the US government, the big drug companies, but it's the system itself. For the most part, the system is based on profits and greed. When it comes to people's health, profit should be nowhere involved. If anyone suggested that, say, the school system should be making a profit, they'd be looked at as if they were from Mars. Nobody would ever say the City Water Department should be turning a profitwithout water, you don't live. Health care should be the same way, and it IS that way in other countries.

Insurance to Make Sicko

If you're making a movie about the insurance industry, getting insurance to make your movie is not the easiest thing. They were not very eager to insure us. We were able to get every good health insurance for everyone, but getting what's called “production insurance” covering errors and omissions and stuff like that wasn't easy. Every big company refused us.

Docu's Positive Outcomes

Some of the Americans we have filmed, those who were willing to fight back and demand that their health company do the right thing, had positive results and eventually found some relief.

Take Laura, the young woman whose insurance company wouldn't pay her ambulance bill. She wouldn't take no for an answer and eventually Blue Cross relented.

The two young people who were rejected because they were too fat or too thin eventually found health insurance companies willing to insure them.

Maria Wattanabe received only minimal relief through her lawsuit and is now appealing. Her lawyer is optimistic. The point of all of this is, why should anyone have to fight so hard just to get the help they deserve When will we start to realize health care is a human right

Shooting Sicko Overseas

The experience of shooting most of Sicko overseas was eye-opening, exhilarating, and depressing. We continued to be surprised by what we discovered. We thought we knew the issue fairly well, but every corner we turned, we found something new.

It was depressing, because as Americans, we kept thinking: We come from the richest country on earth, so why don't we have free health care, too Overall, it reminded me about the importance of getting out of the house. About 80 percent of Americans don't have a passport, so most of us don't get to see the whole world and what's going on. Ignorance is never a healthy thingyou can't make the best decisions without having all of the information. That's true in our daily life, and that's true in our political life.

Three Important Lessons

We need to eliminate private health insurance companies. That's the biggest single impediment to making sure everybody who needs to be taken care of receives the help they require.

The pharmaceutical companies should also be highly regulated, like ConEd. A lot of people need medicine to survive, but to allow pharmaceutical companies to jack up prices and make it impossible for some people to get the drugs they need to liveis criminal.

The third lesson could be called “We the People.” Health care needs to be in the hands of the people, just like the Fire Department and the Police Department are in the hands of the people, instead of a private company like Halliburton. We all have become more active in caring about these things, and start thinking of ourselves as part of a group lager than just me, myself, and I.

Insurance to Make the Movie

As you can imagine, if youre making a movie about the insurance industry, getting insurance to make your movie isnt the easiest thing. They were not very eager to insure us. We were able to get very good health insurance for everyone, but getting whats called production insurance covering errors and omissions and stuff like that wasnt easy. Every big company refused us,

Positive Outcomes of Docu

A few of those who were willing to fight back and demand that their health insurance company do the right thing eventually found some relief. Laura, the young woman whose insurance company wouldn't pay her ambulance bill wouldn't take no for an answer and eventually Blue Cross relented. The two young people who were rejected because they were too fat or too thin eventually found health insurance companies willing to insure them. Maria Wantanabe received only minimal relief through her lawsuit and is now appealing. Her lawyer is optimistic. The point of all of this is why should anyone have to fight so hard just to get the help they deserve When will we start to realize health care is a human right

Shooting Overseas

It was eye-opening, exhilarating and depressing. We continued to be surprised by what we discovered. We thought we knew the issue fairly well, but every corner we turned we found something new. It was depressing because, as Americans, we kept thinking: we come from the richest country on earth, so why dont we have free health care, too Overall, it reminded me about the importance of getting out of the house. About 80% of Americans dont have a passport, so most of us dont get to see the whole world and whats going on. Ignorance is never a healthy thing you cant make the best decisions without having all of the information. Thats true in our daily life, and thats true in our political life.

Politicians' Solid Health Care Plans

They dont seem to want to grapple with the real issue. Its very sad. Even the well-intentioned people like John Edwardshis plan seems to be to take our tax dollars and put them into the pockets of the private insurance industry. That is not the solution. Obama hasnt put together his plan yet, though Im hoping hell come up with something good. And then, of course, theres always the candidate who hasnt entered the race yet, but who won the office back in 2000. What he's been saying on this issue since 2003 is the best.

Who Will Fight Sicko

Those who profit from peoples misery and illnesses are not going to like this film. Yet Sicko may have the widest audience of any film Ive ever done, simply because so many people regardless of their political stripeare affected by this issue.

Controversial Image

Why is it that Im considered controversial What have I done I made a movie about people in my hometown that suffered as a result of GM pulling out. I made another movie because a bunch of kids were killed at Columbine High School and I didnt want that to happen again. And I made a movie because, early on. I took a wild guess and told the American people from the stage of the Oscars that we were being lied to about weapons of mass destruction and I got booed. These days, I get a lot of Republicans stopping me on the street and apologizing to me. They now see I was trying to warn them the Emperor has no clothes. At this point, Im very squarely in the middle of the mainstream majority.