Like many movies about medicine or health care, the movie is more caricature than realistic portrayal. The protagonist, even though he's holding hostages at gunpoint and has threatened to kill them, is widely considered to be a good guy, sort of a folk hero, even by some of the hostages. Yeah, right. The hospital administrator is cold and heartless, and doctors in HMO's are accused of denying care to people so they can get bigger bonuses. In reality, HMO's might have some problems, but the vast majority of HMO doctors practice ethically and care for patients like they should.
The real fallacy of the movie, though, is that in real life Denzel's son could have qualified for a program called Children's Special Health Care Services (CSHCS), which would have paid for his transplant. Formerly called the Crippled Children's program - you can see why they changed the name - the program was founded back in the 1930's to pay for medical care for children with chronic conditions that require medical specialty care. Different states may call it different names and run it in different ways, but in our state many, many diagnoses are covered, such as cerebral palsy, leukemia and other malignancies, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and congenital heart disease. The cost for it varies according to the families' finances. It's free for the very poor but has monthly co-payments for others, according to their ability to pay. Relatively few people know about it, but in real life the hospital's finance department would have helped Denzel's family sign up for it.
Since we're talking about programs with complicated initials for names, I am reminded of SCHIP: States Children's Health Insurance Program. This is a federally funded program that allows families too rich for Medicaid but too poor to buy private insurance to get health insurance for their children at greatly reduced rates. It has been a success the last few years, providing health insurance for millions of children of the working poor. It's not the answer for all the uninsured people in the U.S., but it's a start. Unfortunately, in the latest budget proposal the Bush administration is proposing only $5 billion to cover the program, which is several billion dollars short of what states need to cover it at its current levels.
I finished my workout before the end of the movie. I'm not sure how it ends, but suffice it to say that things weren't looking too promising for the health of the Denzel Washington character. Taking people hostage doesn't pay. Talking to knowledgeable people about different helpful programs, although a lot less exciting and entertaining, does.