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Hollywood’s Healthcare System By: Michael Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, March 25, 2002

KAREN IGNANI, president of the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP), the association of the managed care industry, said that the movie John Q, irresponsibly sends the message that violence is the way to resolve health care disputes. AAHP subsequently placed newspaper ads calling for Washington to solve the problem of the uninsured. According to Ms. Ignani, America should fault the rising costs that make healthcare unaffordable for many Americans.

If Ms. Ignani and the AAHP are responsible for the image of managed care organizations (MCO’s) in this country, is it any wonder that HMO’s have a negative image? Instead of reminding people that HMO’s actually finance healthcare and that John Q is about as plausible as CinderellaMs. Ignani opines about the deleterious methods of resolving healthcare issues portrayed in the movie. How bizarre.

I worked in the healthcare field for fifteen yearsfor both the MCO’s and for the providers. My experience taught me the needs and concerns of the doctors, public, the insurers, and the hospitals. As the Director of Managed Care for Temple University Health Sciences Center in Philadelphia, one of my responsibilities was to negotiate contracts with HMO’s. Temple is an Academic Medical Center and one of the leading heart transplant hospitals in the United States. I would not have contracted with an HMO that did not include paying for transplants or paying only a small fraction of the hospital charges for transplants. I do not believe any hospital would have made such a contract.

The movie’s concept that an HMO only pays a certain amount for heart transplants and the balance has to be paid by the member is ludicrous. It is indicative of the ignorance of Hollywood regarding the private sector. (Of course, the AAHP did nothing to correct this misinformation.) John Q displays the incredible vapidity and fatuity that’s so common among Hollywood scriptwriters, producers, and directors. This is evident in most movies made about business, the military, and law enforcementthe three institutions Hollywood leftists loves to hate. John Q is a shibboleth for their advocacy of socialism.

Recently during an interview with Bill O’Reilly, filmmaker Michael Moore asked O’Reilly,

"You ever been to Canada? Nice country you think you could find fifty people who would complain about their healthcare system? "O’Reilly, who is sometimes clueless about such things and understandably so, did not respond. However, he could have said that cardiologists in Windsor, Ontario routinely send patients to Detroit for care. O’Reilly could have said that so many Canadians were going to the United States for medical care that the province of Ontario considered not paying their bills. Of course, Michael Moore does not know this because he is ignorant of anything other than the party line. Michael Moore thinks socialized medicine is what we should have in the United States. Moore and others in Hollywood believe the Canadian healthcare is a paradigm.

But of course the Canadian system is not the panacea Hollywood and the media portray it to be. Socialized medicine is dysfunctional. However, filmmakers want to be reformers and to them socialized medicine is the reform. My concern is that the reformers, in their zeal for the phantasmagoria of "equality and justice," will try to fix what is not broken.

Let us not lapse into the demagoguery of such aphorisms as "Patients, not profits, " unless we want the result to be a bureaucratic oligarchy, where the aphorism " Political power not patients," will be a more apt description. Remember, Michael Moore, Denzel Washington, and Bill O’Reilly earn more money than the annual salary of ten heart transplant surgeons. What is more valuable to society? Michael Moore books, Denzel Washington movies, Bill O’Reilly TV shows, or transplant surgery?

There is a line in the movie in which Denzel Washington wants to know why the hospital cannot do the surgery for free since they made $70 million the prior year. $70 million in one year? John Q made $23 million in one weekend.

Americans considering socialized medicine should heed the words of Benjamin Franklin who said, "A mutual change of necessities, the more free...the more it flourishes. Most of the restraints put upon it…seem to have been the project of particulars for their private interest under the pretense of public good. "

There are many criticisms Hollywood could make of managed care. John Q is not one of them.

Michael P. Tremoglie is the author of the new novel A Sense of Duty, and an ex-Philadelphia cop. E-mail him at elfegobaca@comcast.net.

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