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Culture

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Combien coûte un doigt?

by Michel Guilloux

How Much does a Finger Cost?

Translated Tuesday 22 May 2007, by Henry Crapo

Film presented in Cannes (not in competition): Sicko. by Michael Moore, shows the ravages of a health system turned over to the private sector. Food for thought.

Sicko, by Michael Moore, United States, 2 hours, 3 minutes.

Cannes, Special envoy.

On a subject like health insurance, Michael Moore is primarily there to warn us. To begin with, fifty million Americans don’t have any health insurance at all. So he will have a virtually unlimited stock of shock sequences to show us. But he is here interested in something else — the fate of two hundred and fifty other millions of people, whom he approaches at three levels: testimony they give, mechanisms, and international comparison.

A man who had two fingers cut by a saw will have the choice between recovering both fingers for 72 thousand dollars, or keep only one, at a cost of 12 thousand dollars. Another person, despite the fact that he is covered by the contract of the hospital where his wife works, finds himself refused treatment for his cancer at that same establishment. He dies because of it. And he was black, ... too. An old man seventy years of age "works more" to preserve his "right" to private medical insurance. A couple has to find refuge in a corner of the home of their daughter. The cancer of one, the heart problems of the other, and the cost of care for the two of them has cost them the roof over their heads. An exemption (excluded from compensation) has been put in place, and has now reached 9000 dollars. This seems to be accepted.

Moore received more than sixty thousand responses to his requests for testimony on the subject. From these, three others were selected, sufficient to show the pitiless machine for exclusion at work. A telephone counsellor explains how she is supposed to reject cases. A medical counsellor in a private group testifies to Congress about his responsibility in the death of a patient. She was promoted for that, and saw her salary climb to six figures. She had permitted her employers an economy of 500 thousand dollars in a single case. And a former "expert" in recovery of funds explains the methods of harassment employed to recuperate a maximum of "lost" money from patients. The stock market quotations rise, the profits also ...

This is normal functioning for a financial market in the health care industry. Without a doubt. There was however a certain time and place where this all began. Michael Moore locates it in the cassettes from Watergate. We hear a conversation between Nixon and one of his advisors deciding to pick off an element of the social service, to offer it to a private group from their own circle. And we see the same person, the next day, deliver a speech about the necessity of this "reform" in the interests of all the American people. Time passed has not improved matters, and the only figures moving up are the number of private groups flourishing and the number of politicians, men and women, who are first of all beneficiaries of these companies’ subsidies.

He exhibits a silent rage in showing all this, albeit controlled, for a part of Sicko, Michael Moore, this pampheteer with a Palme to his credit from Cannes in 2004 for Fahrenheit 9/11. We scarcely see him on the screen, nor do we see his famous hunting scenes, camera in hand.

Michael Moore addresses himself in priority to his fellow citizens, with the same dose of bad faith, manicheism, even idealism that bathes their culture, their common values, and all his films. We find him, with a bit of self-derision that heightens the contrast, looking around foreign countries. Canada, the UK, France ..., his vision of our public systems of social security is at least seen through rose-colored glasses. Little it matters, Moore finds something lacking, which might be called a spirit of solidarity when talking about health and human beings. In the United States, such talk is an absolute evil, akin to "sovietism". So the film-maker drives home the nail, bringing those who saved lives at the World Trade Center to be treated in Guantanamo, because it seems that they have the latest and most up-to-date modern hospital equipment, then driving them to a Cuban hospital, where they are treated, really, and for free. There, Michael Moore strikes where it hurts most, and ended up with legal actions instituted against him. And if there is a problem for the visioning of his film in Cannes, it may be due to the simultaneous announcement of our new government. Sicko rings like a deaf warning. Not so much a question of an unavoidable importation of an American "model", but of a financial gangrene that spares no sector. A gangrene which can spread far in the body social.


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