Body Brokers is based upon the very real fraud scam that occurs in the Substance Use Disorder (SUD)treatment world in the USA. The situation itself may seem completely foreign to anyone outside of the USA, and probably extremely horrifying. For background, I am well aware of this scheme, because I work in health care fraud, and I may know a thing or two about this specific scheme. It was the main reason I was so interested in the film.
The story is prefaced with a little background on the situation created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2011, narrated by Vin (Frank Grillo), whom I thought was the lead. It was made law by Obama to expand health care benefits to everyone, creating a marketplace with ‘affordable’ (used very loosely) health insurance. The ACA mandated that all health insurance companies are required to reimburse for SUD services. On the face of it, this is great, right? Well, this is America, and we’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs, and honestly, it’s a brilliant scheme. The health insurers will reimburse an astronomical rate for these services, and I won’t go into specifics about the differences between network providers, et cetera. Anyway, these SUD facility owners hire body brokers, most often former addicts. These brokers travel around, find drug addicts, buy insurance for them, bring them to the facilities, provide ‘treatment’, pay them, release them after the max number of days are billed as allowed by the health insurance, move them to ‘sober’ homes, provide drugs, then stick them back into a facility, and eventually, a lot of these people overdose and die.
Our story follows heroin addict Utah (Jack Kilmer) who is recruited by Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams) in Ohio, to go get clean at a facility in California. Utah genuinely wants to get clean, and you immediately begin to root for him, because he’s pretty likeable. Wood is incredibly charismatic, and a great salesman. He uses his own drug addict past to come across as relatable and easily recruits addicts.
Utah ends up leaving his heroin-addicted girlfriend in Ohio and thrives in the treatment centre. He’s tempted by Wood to join the brokering business and leaves treatment after 30 days. Your immediate thought is, oh no, this won’t end well. It’s incredibly rare to keep sobriety after one 30-day stint. Utah begins rolling in the dough but realizes how truly wrong the entire scheme is, and that it’s probably not really helping people. Again, you’re rooting for this kid, and the film shows multiple situations in which Utah could slip back to his habit. The inevitable happens and it’s really upsetting, of course, but I didn’t expect it to shake out for Utah. Also, every time Michael Kenneth Williams appeared, all I could think about was Assassin’s Creed, then my mind wandered to Michael Fassbender, and yeah, that’s never good when your mind drifts during a film.
This was the first of two films I rented for around $2 on Amazon Prime Day. I’m glad I only paid $2 to watch the film. I think I was expecting something different, which led to an ambivalence towards this film. The production value was low, and as I mentioned, Frank Grillo’s Vin wasn’t really the main character, as I expected him to be. Not saying the story of Utah wasn’t interesting, it just wasn’t what I necessarily wanted to watch. The reason for my overall meh-ness was that I thought it was going to have some sort of fed law enforcement story, because the FBI is actively looking at the scheme, and taking these facilities and brokers down. Alas, that was not the case.
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I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.