A lengthy interview with Al Gore and an excerpt from his new book, and now this Q&A with Michael Moore about his new film SiCKO, on the health care and pharmaceutical ripoff industries:
TIME: With Sicko, do you think you picked an easy target? After all, you can’t find a whole lot of people who are happy with their HMO.
Michael Moore: This film does cut across party lines. Everybody gets sick; everybody has had a problem with insurance or the prescription drugs they’re supposed to be taking or an elderly parent who needs care. On the surface, it does seem that the only people who are going to be upset are the executives of insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
TIME: So if there’s no argument that the system is broken, why use your energies to start one?
Michael Moore: Because what’s even more broken is the fact that our Congress and White House are bought and paid for by these two industries, which rival the oil industry in terms of money and influence. They have a vested interest in maintaining their control. But they’re not dumb. They know which way the wind is blowing and that this is the No. 1 domestic issue with Americans. Their job now is to try to control it so that universal health care is run through them, so that they can still skim the money, make the obscene profits and keep their investors happy.
TIME: Of the declared presidential candidates, down to the Dennis Kucinich level, say, who do you think has the best health-care plan? Including Kucinich? We could include him.
Michael Moore: Then Kucinich, but he doesn’t go far enough. He supports what he’s calling a single- payer nonprofit plan, but from my read, it would still allow [private] entities to control things, as opposed to the government. What’s wrong with the government? The right wing and the G.O.P. have done a wonderful job brainwashing people that government doesn’t work, and then, as Al Franken says, they get elected and proceed to prove the point. [Laughs.]
TIME: So you think Washington could handle a program this big?
Michael Moore: Ask anyone on Social Security if their check comes on time every month. Like clockwork. And it comes through the so-called dilapidated U.S. mail. My dad’s check literally will come on the same day every month. The government has been quite good and efficient at creating a number of systems. If I tell people the administrative costs for a private health plan —advertising, p.r., executive pay —are 20% and ask them what Medicare’s administrative costs are, they’ll guess 50%, 60%. The fact is, for Medicare/ Medicaid, it’s 3%. The last figure I read for Canada’s [government] system is 1.7%.TIME: Your movie paints an almost utopian picture of the Canadian system. You do show some American critics arguing that there can be long waits for treatments north of the border, and you refute them simply by interviewing a handful of happy, satisfied Canadians. Pretty unscientific, no?
Michael Moore: Canadians as a whole are pretty happy with their system. Yes, it’s a flawed system, and the main flaw is that it’s underfunded. The [in-depth] answers exist in articles and essays, and I’ll have them up on my website.
TIME: You also speak rhapsodically about the French and Cuban systems and travel to Cuba, where you interview Che Guevara’s daughter. France, Cuba, Che. Are you going out of your way to annoy the right?
Michael Moore: I give people more credit than the media and the political machine running this country do. The story line is: France, bad; France, cowards. What crime did France commit? We wouldn’t have had this country without their support in the Revolution. They gave us that statue that sits out in New York Harbor. They responded immediately after 9/11. And they remain eternally grateful for what we did during World War II.
As for Cuba, yes, when I’ve got a film crew there, they’re going to show us their best. But there’s a reason the World Health Organization ranks their health-care system [among] the best in the Third World and that people from Latin America come there for their health care. There’s also a reason Cubans live on average a month longer than we do. I’m not trumpeting Castro or his regime. I just want to say to fellow Americans, “C’mon, we’re the United States! If they can do this, we can do it.”
TIME: What was the hardest thing about making this movie?
Michael Moore: Getting insurance. How do you convince an insurance company to insure a film about insurance? I finally found this guy who’s got a little company out in Kansas City. I think he’s the only Democrat who owns an insurance company.
TIME: Do you think people will accuse the movie of inaccuracy?
Michael Moore: I offered $10,000 to anybody who could find a single fact in Fahrenheit 9/11 that was wrong.
TIME: Have you had to pay anything?
Michael Moore: No, of course not. Every fact in my films is true. And yet how often do I have to read over and over again about supposed falsehoods? The opinions in the film are mine. They may not be true, but I think they are.
After Moore challenged GOP presidential wannabe Fred "Law and Order" Thompson to a debate, Thompson responded with a YouTube video that had the conservative blogosphere in an orgasmic frenzy.Moore's response was a straight one-liner: "Why would a potential presidential candidate provide photographic evidence of himself committing a felony?"
That's a law-and-order Republican for you.