John Q.: How Real Is This Horror Story?

THE HOLLYWOOD VERSION

As a rule, it's not a good idea to pick up a gun, take over the emergency room of a hospital and threaten to kill your family's cardiac surgeon. But that's what Denzel Washington's character does in the film John Q. when his son is denied the heart transplant he needs to survive. And if box-office reaction is any indication, plenty of frustrated health-care consumers have at least fantasized about doing the same thing: John Q., released in late February, hit No. 1 in its first week and stayed near the top. But does HMO hell really get this bad?

The...

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