Modal close

Hi there,

You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. This weekend, we're broadcasting live from D.C. as students and people of all ages converge on the capital to demand action on gun control. Our coverage is produced at a fraction of the cost of a commercial news operation, without ads, paywalls, government funds or corporate sponsors. How is this possible? Only with your support. If you and everyone visiting this website gave just $4, it would cover our operating costs for 2018. Pretty exciting, right? Please do your part. It takes just a few minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else.

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.


The Hollywood Film “John Q” Takes On the Health Insurance Industry

Media Options


The Oscars are this Sunday. In 74 years of the Oscars, the most prestigious movie awards, only six acting trophieshave gone to African-Americans. But this year, much is being made about it being a good year for African Americans.The honorary Oscar will go to Sidney Poitier for his life’s work. 38 years ago, Poitier won best actor for Lilies ofthe Field. This year is the first time African-American performers could win both major acting categories. HalleBerry is up for best actress in Monster’s Ball and Denzel Washington for best actor in Training Day.

Today we are going to take a look at another Denzel Washington film, one that was released too late to be nominatedfor the Oscars this year. John Q was released five weeks ago, and this week it was the number 8 top-grossing movie inUS theaters. John Q may be unique among Hollywood films in its explicit intention to affect people’s opinions onhealth policy issues. Washington plays a father whose son is denied access to a heart transplant because hisinsurance policy doesn’t cover the $250,000 operation. The hospital refuses to put the boy’s name on the heartrecipient list unless his parents pay $75,000 up front. So Washington’s character takes the matter in his own hands.

Even before John Q was released, the health insurance industry had begun to spin its counter-message. Almost a weekbefore the film was released, Blue Cross Blue Shield charged that the film “reinforces ridiculous stereotypes abouthealth care, glorifies violence as a means of problem-solving and needlessly frightens the public.” The day beforethe movie opened, the American Association of Health Plans began running full-page ads in Washington and Hollywoodnewspapers declaring that “the fictional character John Q. has the wrong answer for America’s health care costcrisis.” What is it that has the HMO industry in such a tizzy?

Let’s listen to the film.


  • John Q preview clip


  • Elizabeth Benjamin, supervising attorney in the health law unit of the Legal Aid Society.
  • Archie Lamb, a lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama. He represents the California Medical Association, TexasMedical Association, Florida Medical Association, Medical Association of Georgia, and a large class of individualphysicians in suits against various HMOs. Lamb was designated lead counsel in the RICO lawsuit against HMOs pendingin the Federal Court in the Southern District of Florida.

Related links:

Related Story

Web ExclusiveJan 24, 2017“13th” & “Life, Animated”: Meet the Filmmakers Behind the Oscar-Nominated Documentaries
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation
Up arrowTop