A major point made in Sicko is that many health insurance companies in America are driven by profits. "As they say very clearly in the film, the more care they provide, the less profit they make," Michael says.
In his film, Michael features a clip of Dr. Linda Peeno, a former medical director at a major health insurance corporation. "She's a doctor, and her job was to essentially try and deny as many claims as she could. …," Michael says. "So she blew the whistle on them, testified in front of Congress, and it was a powerful, emotional moment."
While Linda Peeno's testimony was indicative of the practice at some companies, it did not implicate every company. "And let me say a word in their defense," Michael says. "The law demands and requires that a corporation like a health insurance company maximize the profits for the shareholders, and if they don't do that, they're violating the law. … If they are required by law to make a profit, and the only way they can make a profit is by denying claims or cutting people off of their insurance or never taking them on in the first place, then that's not good for us."
One woman Michael talked to was denied a claim for surgery because she had not disclosed a past yeast infection. "They have a whole team of investigators where if a bill hits a certain level—in this case it was just $7,000 for an operation—then they see if there's anything in her past," Michael says. "So the investigator comes back and says, 'Yeah, we went through her medical files and we found that 10 years ago she had a yeast infection. That's good enough. Let's not pay the bill.'"