February 18, 2002
Film Ignores Real Transplant Issue
According to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, the demand for
transplant surgeries in the United States has nearly quadrupled since 1990.
Although the new movie "John Q" would have us believe that financial
considerations are the reason that some people go without needed
transplants, the scarcity of organs is the real culprit.
In the movie, the lead character takes over a hospital by violent means when
he learns that his employer-provided health insurance doesn't cover the
heart transplant needed by his nine-year-old son.
In reality, there are dozens of organizations in this country that work with
transplant patients. "The truth is that a healthcare professional would
likely be assigned to the people portrayed in this film to help them
clinically and to help them get financial assistance and other support,"
said Don Thieman, M.D., medical director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of
Oregon, the state's largest health insurer.
Most health plans work closely with transplant centers to ensure that
financial considerations don't stand in the way of their members' receiving
transplants. In fact, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association acted more
than a decade ago to create the Blue Quality Centers for Transplant, a
national network of transplant centers that meet stringent quality
standards. Blue Plans negotiate global package prices for their members for
defined episodes of care. Transplant benefits are included in all standard
Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon benefit packages -- although
self-insured employer groups can select different benefits.
"However," Dr. Thieman pointed out, "there simply aren't enough organs to go
around for all the people who need transplants. In 2000, nearly 6,000 people
on the organ transplant waiting list in this country died before an
appropriate organ became available. Someone new gets added to the nation's
waiting list every 13 minutes. The length of time it takes to find an
available organ is governed by such things as blood type, length of time on
the waiting list, severity of illness and other medical criteria -- not by
"It's important that the movie-going public realize that in making 'John Q,'
the facts got in the way of a good story," said Dr. Thieman. "The absolute
best thing we can all do about availability of transplants is to consider
becoming organ donors. I am, and so are other members of my family."
Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon is an independent licensee of the
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The company celebrated its 60th
anniversary in 2001. Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon provides
medical, dental and related coverage for 1.1 million people in Oregon and
Clark County, Washington. It is part of The Regence Group, which has Blue
Cross and/or Blue Shield affiliates also in Washington, Idaho and Utah.
Nationally, more than one in four Americans have Blue Cross and Blue Shield