Michael Moore for Secretary of Health

Sicko is near-great documentary that will and should have a profound impact on the election and on public policy. If no president can fix our health care and insurance mess in this country and no politician can coalesce public opinion, maybe he can.

Moore is — for Moore — practically deft and subtle as he exposes the hell we’re all in with our insurance coverage. I was impressed that, all in all, he let the stories tell themselves and he left his 2×4 in the closet. Of course, he can’t miss the opportunities to snicker and act incredulous; he has to ham. But he knows that he has a powerful message and that he doesn’t need to amp it up. And keep in mind that he’s attacking only one head of this hydra: insurance. There’s much else that’s a mess about our health care system.

I do think, though, that Sicko would have been stronger if it has been more journalistic — that is, more complete and, yes, balanced. Moore extols the virtues of the national health systems in Canada, the UK, France, and, as we all know by now, Cuba. Watching all those well-cared-for Canadians, I had a relapse of a recurrent urge to move north. Though he goes to waiting rooms and debunks some myths about the wait for care — at least in those rooms — no one would deny that these systems, too, have their problems; just read the British press about its National Health Service. On balance, his argument is still valid — all the more valid, I’d say, if he’d have dealt with those yes-buts we’re bound to hear. I know, Moore would say he isn’t making journalism, it’s advocacy. I say the line is blurred and whatever you call it, an argument will have more impact if it has the discipline to answer the hard questions.

I can think of many other movies that had an impact on the culture — you can list a dozen that affected American thinking about race — and that affected public opinion — name your anti-war movies from the Vietnam era — but I’m not sure I can think of a movie that tries to have such a direct effect on policy and legislation.

My suburban theater was jammed last night with plenty of people who surely vote Republican; I’m in a minority out here. They left sharing rave reviews. I’ll bet that Sicko will be a hit on two scales: gross and impact.

And Moore is using the web to extend that impact. A few weeks ago, he asked people to share their horror stories with us:

Here are the 70 responses so far.

Here’s a guy who says he couldn’t get his broken hand fixed because he didn’t have insurance or $400 and so now it’s mangled — “waaaa, but I guess that’s the state of things in America.”

Here’s a very simple video from a woman who couldn’t get insurance, try as she might, and who reacts to the heart-rending stories of others responding to Moore (in particular, this woman with MS here and here):

At a screening for the 11 of 900 health care lobbyists who showed up, Moore says he wants the voters to demand universal health care from the candidates and he wants people to speak up and support Rep John Conyers’ universal health-care bill. The audio’s messed up but this is the essential Moore platform:

And here, Moore goes to testify on Capitol Hill. It’s more than a movie. It’s a campaign.

(Crossposted at PrezVid)