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Will ‘Sicko’ scare you into a healthier lifestyle?

I trotted over to see Michael Moore’s “Sicko” the first day it opened in Chicago. Moore’s a talented guy, and “Sicko” is a powerful movie, though not a perfect one. Who needs perfect? I read recently, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Moore’s film is plenty good enough, a funny, horrific, compassionate look at the profit-oriented health care system in the United States. Please see it. It’s an eye-opener. I think it could inspire a lot of people to start living a healthier lifestyle for one very good reason: Get sick in the United States, and you could die or go broke trying to get well.

So let me sum up one of Moore’s major points: We Americans are being duped. Our health care system is broken, biased and cruel, and the people in charge are doing very little to make it better. And who are the people in charge? The insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the health-care lobbyists. Moore didn’t just make a movie. He wants to start a movement. Check out www.michaelmoore.com to join.

As Moore calmly explains, ours is a for-profit, private-insurance-driven system - unlike the free or near-free universal health-care systems in all other industrialized nations. The United States has pretty much perfected the art of making a buck. It’s a good thing. Capitalism rules! Making money is part of the American dream.

But here’s the fundamental problem with the U.S. health-care system as it is: The highest priority is making a profit -- what’s best for a private company’s bottom line -- and NOT what is best for the person who is sick and suffering. That’s why U.S. insurance companies deny coverage and reward doctors who refuse claims. That’s why drugs in the United States cost so much more than drugs in other countries. That’s why even insured Americans - I’m talking you and me, buster -- can go bankrupt if we get sick or have an accident and the insurance people decide to quit paying. Sure, you can sue, but that costs even more money.

“It’s a sad situation,” says narrator Moore, who uses his movie to document one health-care horror story after another. (He turned to the Internet asking for stories and got 25,000 the first week!) The funniest case was the woman who was in a car crash and knocked unconscious. Her insurance company refused to pay the cost of the ambulance that took her to the hospital. Why? Because it wasn’t pre-approved. Pre-approved? She was unconscious! Some of Moore’s other examples, more serious and much sadder -- the 9/11 rescue workers and poor Larry and Donna - made me feel sicko.

Between the laughing and the crying, I found myself getting more and more upset, especially when Moore reminds us that the problem isn’t only that our health-care system isn’t free or near-free - the way it is in France, the United Kingdom, Canada and in every other industrialized nation -- it’s also the most expensive and not nearly the best.

Surprised? This is the disturbing little truth that U.S. drug and insurance companies don’t like to talk about. America does not lead the world in health care. We are 37th on a list of 191 nations ranked by the World Health Organization, only slightly ahead of Slovenia. We spend next to nothing on prevention. Our rates of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension are much higher than other countries, and that’s why, at the close of Moore’s film, deep into the credits, he offers this bit of advice:

“Eat your fruits and vegetables, and go for a walk.”

It’s meant as a joke, but it’s so not funny. “Sicko” shows us a U.S. health-care system that is greedy and dysfunctional. The best way to deal with it -- until it gets fixed, soon, please - is to stay out of it for as long as you can. Prevent chronic diseases by living a healthier lifestyle. Exercise regularly. Don’t smoke. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat real food in modest portions. Move to France, and pay nothing to have a baby delivered. Buy your meds in Britain, where no drug costs more than $10. Marry a Canadian.

ENERGY EXPRESS-O! COUNTRY, HEAL THY SELF

“The drug and insurance companies have dumped over a half billion dollars in the pockets of Congress and the White House in the last 10 years. This movie may end up being their worst nightmare.” - Michael Moore