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Review of the film, Sicko

Film>>Sicko, Produced and directed by Michael Moore, 125 minutes, USA

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Wednesday 15 August 2007

Adroit use of footage makes Si


Michael Moore has penchant for turning polemics into cinema. And good cinema at that. His first film, Roger and Me, delineated the economic plight of small us town in the wake of General Motors' decision to close down its factories there. His next target was the gun lobby in Bowling for Columbine. With Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore questioned whether us President George W Bush might have had a hidden agenda in waging war on Iraq. The agent provocateur of modern cinema has now trained his camera at the us health care system. His new film, Sicko, is ostensibly directed at the American audience, but it has a lot of relevance for people in developing countries who have become targets of private insurance companies. In India, for example, many of these companies hard-sell the American insurance model.

Sicko will scare or at least remove the blinkers of those enamored by this model. It's nauseating stuff. Getting insurance money actually involves reading a lot of fine print, and getting past a lot of red tape, the film shows. The film presents several moving sagas of Americans who suffered medical calamities, and sheds light on their care, or lack thereof, based on the actions of private health-insurance companies. Sample this. A nine-month-old girl going deaf was allowed a transplant only in one ear, because the insurance company considered the treatment experimental. Another patient had her reimbursement cancelled after the insurance company found that she had not disclosed a minor infection in her application form. "Pre-existing condition does not qualify for insurance and the list of these conditions is so long that it could wrap around a house," says a former insurance company employee interviewed in the film.

A number of insurance industry employees interviewed by the director remark that they get incentives on the basis of the number of cases they help deny reimbursements. That is exactly their job, insurance companies claim. It also makes business sense for an insurance company to deny as many claims as it can.
Don't be poor and sick Moore makes it abundantly clear that the us is a very dangerous place to be if you are poor and sick. Insurance company strictures meant that a patient was denied all medicines that needed to be given intravenously--it was the only way she could have been administered the drugs. Another was told that her condition was not life threatening--she died of this condition in a couple of years. Another woman was told that she did not have a tumour though diagnostic tests suggested so.

Moore then shows the health-care systems of Canada, England, France and Cuba. He busts a lot of myths about the systems, such as overcrowded waiting rooms. He blames politicians for perpetuating the myth. He uses an interesting example to make his point. Moore takes a flotilla of ill people--9/11 sufferers--to Cuba a country with a strong public healthcare system.

Though he probes a vitally serious subject, Moore eschews pedantry--clever use of footage and interviews of well-chosen subjects make Sicko a film that will arouse much outrage and evoke a lot of discussion.

Moore's wide-eyed admiration of the public healthcare system in Canada, France, England and Cuba could be an exaggeration, as many critics have held. Does the fact that he is trying to improve matter justify his means? If nothing else, it lays the ground for improving the public healthcare system instead of completely writing it off. What it needs is adequate investment.

And does insurance have a role in public health system? Let's take the case of France.Here people take private insurance to cover the cost of treatment. But treatment is still provided through the public health system.

Sicko will come as an eye-opener for all those who feel that paying insurance premium on time will assure them treatment. Insurance does not cover everything and even if conditions are covered, there are many ifs and buts.

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