Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Say what you will about Moore, but he's got big brass bowling ball sized nuts. With Sicko, he's crafted an in-your-face indictment of corporatized health care that's not just eye-opening for Americans but funny (expected) and really entertaining.

There's a moment in Sicko that's poignant and moving: after having given us firsthand looks at countries that take care of their citizens it shows the mother of all publicized cases of patient dumping by Kaiser - the world's largest HMO - on LA's infamous Skid Row.

To those unfamiliar, HMOs ("health management organizations" = corporate run hospitals) have been caught cutting costs by taking those expendable to their business model - ie: the poor/uninsured and therefore defenseless - and just dumping them on the streets. In this way, the poor and therefore defenseless suffer obscenity in terms of American health care in the same way they suffer obscenities with the legal system. For instance, the great work that Barry Scheck, Cardozo Law School et al and The Innocence Project have performed, freeing over 200 wrongfully convicted poor folk.

But when I or anyone says "patient dumping" it's not just any street. It's skid row. As in, You've hit the skids, kid.

Now, let me not just shunt aside what skid row truly and actually is to those who've never seen it. It is, in the worst of senses, a human garbage heap, a sort of modern day charnel house where death grinds deliberately without recourse. To those Skid Row denizens who don't die and exist on, it's a concrete miserablism machine that slowly and pitilessly consumes flesh and will. A friend who was not from here who visited once said that it looked like a war-torn third world country.

Talking about LA and Skid Row reminds me of sheltered folks who visit Waikiki or Ocho Rios and go back to their mother countries and brag about how they've seen "the islands." If they only knew how natives loathe their condescending asses. So it is with LA, proving once again the ageless rule that truth is indeed an illusion, but it's also a conveniently hidden reality for those it benefits.

Back to patient dumping. It was at that point, about 3/4 of the way through, after seeing how Canada and France take care of their own health-care-wise, that Moore offers a poignant question over the grainy urban cam video of "patient" shuffling aimlessly along skid row:

What have we become, what kind of country are we that dumps people like so much garbage? [paraphrased from memory]