Does Moore's "Sicko" Have Its Facts Straight?


CANNES, FRANCE -  Michael Moore's premier of "Sicko" was an overwhelming success at the Cannes Film Festival.  When the curtain went down it received a 15-minute standing ovation, and had made even the most hardened journalists weep.  It told the story of an American health system in crisis.

President Bush frequently calls the American health system "the best health system in the world." It is a bi-partisan statement used by both Republicans and Democrats alike.  Republican Rudy Giuliani said it on the Presidential campaign trail this year and John Kerry said it while campaigning in 2004.   Our question is simply, are these statements political rhetoric or factual?

The movie "Sicko" shows a family selling all their possessions and living in their daughter's storage room to afford health care.  And they had medical insurance.

It shows terror suspects at Guantanamo getting better health care than most typical American families.  It criticizes U.S. private insurance and pharmaceutical companies and HMOs.  It praises socialized medicine in countries like France, the UK, and Canada.

Armed with plenty of statistics, Moore states, "the U.S. is the richest country in the world and spends more on health care than any other country, yet we have the worst health care system in the Western world."  Moore says "the U.S. also has the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate in the Western world. Come on. We can do better than this."

Moore recently stated that the HMO and pharmaceutical industries are gearing up to fight "Sicko."
Moore says he is getting so many great whistleblower letters, internal memos, and messages taken from servers, that he wants even more to stay "ahead of whatever they are up to."

We decided that we wanted to know just what the facts are.  Is Moore right or is President Bush?  Does America have the best health system in the world, as measured by life expectancy and infant mortality or is Moore right?  Are we spending more than any other country in the Western world?  And if so, are we getting the worst health care system for our dollars?  Both sides have facts, but whose are right?

When we surveyed select counties across the world for life expectancy, which was defined as the life expectancy at birth for both sexes, the U.S. fared very poorly.

The U.S. came in 17th, tied with Cyprus, with a life expectancy of 78.0.  Here are the countries in the top 17: Japan (81.4); Switzerland (80.6); Sweden (80.6); Australia (80.6); Canada (80.3); Italy (79.9); France (79.9); Spain (79.8); Norway (79.7); Israel (79.6); Greece (79.4); Austria (79.2); New Zealand (79.0); Germany (79.0); U.K. (78.7); Finland (78.7); Cyprus (78.0); and the U.S. (78.0).

In our survey of select countries across the world for infant mortality, which was defined as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births, the U.S. again did poorly.

The U.S. came in 16th, below South Korea, with an infant mortality rate of 6.4.  Here are the countries in the top 16:  Sweden (2.8); Japan (3.2); Finland (3.5); Norway (3.6); Czech Republic (3.9); France (4.2); Spain (4.3); Denmark (4.5); Austria (4.5); Canada (4.6); Australia (4.6); Portugal (4.9); UK (5.0); New Zealand (5.7); South Korea (6.1); U.S. (6.4).

The next question is whether the U.S. truly spends more than any other country in the world on healthcare. This would indeed indicate a mismanagement of funds budgeted for the healthcare system.

 While there may be mitigating circumstances, these would have to be deemed controllable by the most powerful nation on earth.

We then surveyed per capita health expenditures, by country, which was defined as the sum of public and private expenditures, in U.S. dollars, divided by the population. Health expenditure includes the provision of health services (preventive and curative); family planning activities, nutrition activities and emergency aid designated for health, but excludes the provision of water and sanitation.

Again, Moore's facts checked out. The U.S. spends $5,711 per person.  That's a whopping 33% more the next highest spending country, Norway.  Norway spends only $3,809 per person.

Here are the top 27 highest per capita spending countries in the world: U.S. ($5,711); Norway ($3,809); Switzerland ($3,776); Luxembourg ($3,776); Iceland ($3,110); Germany ($3,001); Canada ($2,989); Netherlands ($2,987); France ($2,902); Australia ($2,874); Denmark ($2,762); Sweden ($2,704); Ireland ($2,496); U.K. ($2,389); Austria ($2,306); Italy ($2,266); Japan ($2,244); Finland ($2,108); Greece ($1,997); Israel ($1,911); New Zealand ($1,893); Spain
($1,853); Portugal ($1,791); Slovenia ($1,669); Malta ($1,436); Czech Republic ($1,302).

Finally, If the U.S. truly had the "best health care system in the world" you'd expect it to have the highest number of physicians per 100,000 people.  Or be very, very close to the top of the list.

However, this time the results are shocking.  The U.S. isn't even on the list of the top thirty countries in the world that have the highest number of physicians per 100,000 people.

These top 30 countries are, by number of physicians to 100,000 people: Cuba (591); Saint Lucia (517); Belarus (455); Belgium (449); Estonia (448); Greece (438); Russian Federation (425); Italy
(420); Turkmenistan (418); Georgia (409); Lithuania (397); Israel (382); Uruguay (365); Iceland (362); Switzerland (361); Armenia (359); Bulgaria (356); Azerbaijan (355); Kazakhstan (354); Czech Republic (351); Portugal (342); Austria (338); France (337); Germany (337); Hungary (333); Spain (330); Sweden (328); Lebanon (325); Malta (318); Slovakia (318).
Michael Moore's style aside, it's hard to argue the facts.


Articles in this issue:


  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Kirsten Nicole

    Editorial Staff:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Robyn Bowman
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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