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Health care economics in "John Q"
by Dirk Mateer `

Often people will examine health care decisions as if they are choices. Life does not always work out that way. John Q follows John Quincy Archibald's quest to help his son receive a heart transplant. His son suddenly collapses while playing baseball and he is rushed to the emergency room where John Q is informed that his son’s only hope is a transplant. Since this is the only hope of saving their son, the Q’s demand for this surgery is perfectly inelastic. Unfortunately, due to an involuntary work-reduction at his job, John Q’s insurance won't cover his son's transplant. After exploring every available financial option, John Q takes matters into his own hands and takes the emergency room staff hostage until the hospital agrees to do the transplant. The tagline of the film is: “Give a father no options and you leave him no choice.” This nicely summarizes the dilemma that many without insurance face. Medical care insurance is a luxury good that many cannot afford. However, this does not stop the uninsured from demanding medical care when it is life-threatening. This is problematic on two fronts. First, the best way to manage medical care expenses is to proactively provide care. When those without insurance turn to the emergency room as their only source of medical care, their medical conditions are treated in the most expensive manner possible. Second, hospitals transfer the cost of treating the uninsured, by raising the prices of the other services that they provide. As a result, society picks up the tab for the uninsured indirectly through higher insurance premiums.

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
"John Q" by Director: Nick Cassavetes, Producer: Mark Burg (2002) Denzel Washington plays John Q, a luckless blue-collar worker with insufficient insurance needed to cover his son’s emergency heart transplant.