Michael Moore slices up US health system

20th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 19, 2007 (AFP) - Michael Moore unveiled his latest attack on America's shortcomings at Cannes on Saturday with "Sicko", a scathing documentary that exposes the dark side of the US health system and its powerful insurance lobby.

CANNES, France, May 19, 2007 (AFP) - Michael Moore unveiled his latest attack on America's shortcomings at Cannes on Saturday with "Sicko", a scathing documentary that exposes the dark side of the US health system and its powerful insurance lobby.

In the film, played to a packed-out crowd in the film festival's biggest, 2,000-seat theatre, Moore flays a health system that leaves 50 million Americans with no access to medical care -- and which even cruelly pulls the rug out from under many of those who mistakenly think they are properly covered.

The documentary fires off side shots at US President George W. Bush, the follow-up to the September 11, 2001 attacks and the Iraq war, all subjects of predilection for Moore, who won Cannes's Palme d'Or in 2004 for "Fahrenheit 9/11".

This time, the filmmaker has landed in hot water for a stunt in "Sicko" in which he takes a group of ailing September 11 emergency workers to Cuba, where they receive medical treatment.

The US government has opened a probe into the trip, which potentially breaches its laws restricting US citizens from visiting the communist island.

"I don't know why the Bush administration is taking this action. It's hard to get into their heads about why they do anything... This is an administration that flaunts the law, flaunts the constitution," Moore told journalists after the screening.

He added that the government investigation prompted him to make a digital copy of the film and to stash it outside the United States, out of fear that authorities might seize "Sicko" and prevent it being shown.

"The point was not to go to Cuba, it was to go to American soil, to Guantanamo Bay and to take 9/11 rescue workers there to receive the same medical care given to the Al-Qaeda detainees," he said.

But the group doesn't enter the Guantanamo US military base, and instead gets good care from Cuban doctors in a hospital.

Moore also heads to other countries -- Canada, Britain and France -- to show how their national state-run health systems, often derided as "socialist" in the United States, offer a far superior level of care than the US one.

The problem in America is that private Health Maintenance Organisations run the system (under legislation brought in by president Richard Nixon) -- and they do so by limiting coverage and payments, and by "buying off" politicians, the documentary alleges.

"They are legally required to maximise profits for their shareholders," Moore noted, adding that he feared any reform that might come in under a new president could simply end up putting "tax dollars in the hands of private companies".

The real solution, he opined, was to "steal" what worked in other Western countries and apply that to the United States.

Asked whether he was prepared for the inevitable backlash from the deep-pocketed US medical insurance companies, Moore admitted "they may be a scarier force than Karl Rove or George Bush" but added: "It is my profound hope that people will listen to this film."

Moore said he declined to have his film shown in the line up vying for the Palme d'Or this year.

"I already have the Palme d'Or. What do I want? Another Palme d'Or?" asked the filmmaker, who also picked up an Oscar for his 2002 documentary "Bowling in Columbine".

Stephen Schaefer, a US critic for the Boston Globe newspaper, hailed the new movie and predicted it might do even bigger US box office business than "Fahrenheit 9/11".

While the facts "Sicko" lays out "make me sad as an American," Schaefer said it was "a very strong and very honest documentary about a health system that's totally corrupt and that is without any care for its patients."


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news, Cannes Film Festival

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