But this isn’t a policy-doc. And unlike medical dramas, it’s not all about the doctors, either. Instead, Nicks makes us fall in love with some of his characters by including, in short bursts, charming, human moments—a joking, motherly aide who chastises angry men for cussing too much and brings a sandwich to an old woman clearly having a rough go of her waiting-room stay; a father, whose daughter is getting examined for a tonsil infection, who’s been scared of hospitals ever since his two-year-old son died in one after a seizure; a doctor who, for the first time, has to tell a family that he’s lost their teenage son to a gunshot wound.

At a time when healthcare debates have paralyzed government, Nicks’ documentary clears the political fog and focuses us, if briefly, on the human side of a hot issue.

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Jina Moore was a 2013 New Media Fellow of the International Reporting Project