For those who DID see Sicko…


What are your thoughts?

I wrote last week about my thoughts and hopes for the movie “SiCKO”. I've actually seen the film now. I won't go into the details of how I managed to see it without any money flowing in Michael Moore's direction. I'm sure he can move to Cuba or France and have the government take care of him, if he's hurting for money.

I was really disappointed by the film. For one, I felt manipulated the whole time. Moore painted a simplistic (almost childlike) picture of America bad, Canada/Europe/Cuba good. If you take the worst examples of care here with the best examples of care “there,” of course the U.S. system will look terrible. It would be like making a movie about Lean and showing how certain non-Toyota companies misuse Lean to close factories and hurt workers while some mass production plant in China is doing well. Would you conclude that Lean was horrible and mass production was great, if that's the picture that was painted?

I'll be the first to admit that there are problems with the U.S. system, it's by no means perfect. It was particularly frustrating to see, in the film, how the health insurance industry is set up for a “win/lose” relationship with their customers — the more care they provide to you, the customer, the worse their profits are. It's horrible that HMO's employ doctors whose job it is to deny care to the insured, based on their medical expertise (what happened to the Hippocratic oath???). It's ridiculous that the woman in the car crash was dinged for not having her ambulance ride pre-approved (she was unconscious!!).

It's sad, personally, that not everyone has good healthcare, but I didn't see realistic solutions in SiCKO. Just a bunch of “wouldn't it be nice if…” whining and dreaming.

Another disappointment is that the film didn't focus exclusively on healthcare. The movie was unfocused and rambled around on how other countries are better to their people in general — free college, free healthcare, free childcare, free everything. Moore lives in a dream world where these things are all free. The movie is really more of a propaganda film for socialism than it is a documentary about healthcare. If the film had been advertised for what it was, I wouldn't have felt as disappointed in the content. I lost count of how many times Karl Marx was indirectly quoted (to each according to his needs, from each according to his means) or shown on screen. It wasn't particularly subtle propaganda.

Moore's main thesis of the film is about more than healthcare and more about society in general. Moore says we, the American people, are beaten down to live in fear — we're saddled with college debt, we run the fear of losing healthcare, so therefore we're afraid to speak up and “make waves” with our employers (can't risk losing your job) or with “the man.”

Reducing fear in our workplaces is a topic worth discussing, particularly as a disciple of Dr. Deming. But, I wasn't ready to buy into the grand conspiracy theories that Moore was hinting that, that our healthcare system in the U.S. is part of the grand scheme for the government and global corporations to hold us down.

If that's the type of thing you're interested in exploring, go see SiCKO. If you want real intelligent information about improving healthcare, check out these outstanding titles:

Moore missed a great opportunity to use his public soapbox to educate people about how hospitals are killing and hurting far too many patients, all around the world, through systemic mistakes that are very preventable – even in the UK, and in France, and (I'd suppose) Cuba. Those are problems we can fix, through Lean and through systems thinking.

Since I've given links to Moore, before, in the interest of “fair and balanced,” here is a link to the anti-Moore site “Moore Watch.”

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the film and what we can actually FIX with healthcare delivery around the world.

Updated: Here is a similar documentary called “Dead Meat” about the delays that Canadians face in waiting for their “free” healthcare. It's an interesting comparison to SiCKO.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Moore is somewhat loose with a few of his facts, but independent groups have confirmed the accuracy of the bulk of his assertions (that are fact-based).

    The most important piece to me in the film is just the simple notion that our health care system needs major overhaul. That’s no secret -and it will be a large piece of the debate in the next general election.

    My spouse has worked in health care for 25+ years, so I have heard my share of horror stories.

    robert edward cenek, RODP
    Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work


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