What Would You Do?: The Drug Cost Dilemma

Photo: What Would You Do?: the Drug Cost Dilemma: A Woman at a Pharmacy Suddenly Cant Afford Her Insulin. Would You Offer to Help?

It's the debate heard around the nation: From town hall meetings to television and the Internet, angry questions about health care reform have reverberated, with supporters and protesters alike trying to make sense of a new medical age.

As more than 47 million Americans struggle without insurance and more than a third of the country not able to fill prescriptions because of the cost, ABC News wondered if anyone would come to their aid.

So, "What Would You Do?" rigged a local pharmacy in Morristown, N.J., with hidden cameras and microphones to determine if a nation divided on public health would intervene in private care to help a stranger in need.

VIDEO: Would you help a sick stranger get meds?
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Actors were hired to portray a very real health dilemma -- acting as customers who couldn't afford their medications.

Watch "What Would You Do?" on "20/20" FRIDAY at 10 p.m. ET

"What Would You Do?" cast Cam Kornman as an elderly woman with diabetes and living on Social Security. Would bystanders intervene, offer advice or just look the other way?

With the heated health care debate and the current economic crisis, all three reactions might have been expected. But perhaps what happened never could have been anticipated.

In the very first scene, Kornman entered the pharmacy and acted bewildered when the pharmacist told her the diabetes medicine she came to pick up cost $140. No one knew that both she and the pharmacist were actors.

"I'm sure there's a mistake," Kornman protested. "My co-payment is $20. It always has been."

But there was no mistake -- the drug she needed to have no longer was covered by her insurance.

Kornman dissolved into tears as other customers watched in dismay.

Pat Mouyeos, a diabetes sufferer herself, offered her words of wisdom,

"Why don't you have your doctor change the medication to something else if they're not going to cover it anymore?" she asked.

But that wasn't all she did. When "What Would You Do's" actress sat beside her, Mouyeos took out her wallet and handed her $5, saying it was a "necessity" to help.

"What Would You Do?" was astounded by the generosity of this stranger living on Social Security. But would other customers respond the same way?

In the next scene, Kornman acted equally distressed to learn her medication was now $120 more than she expected to pay. Another customer stood right next to her, seemingly aware of her predicament but neither said nor did anything.

Just when it seemed Mouyeos might have been one in a million, another customer jumped out of her seat.

"Listen, I'd like to help her out," Karen Wenberg said as she walked toward the counter.

When the pharmacist told Wenberg the entire prescription cost $140, she responded by sliding her credit card toward him and asked him to put $50 on the card.

"This is so embarrassing," Kornman protested.

Wenberg draped her arm over her and said, "Don't be embarrassed. You know what? Medication is so f***ing expensive. There is no reason to be embarrassed. ... Sometimes we just pass on the good that's been given to us."

But Wenberg's generosity didn't stop there.

As Kornman took out her cash to pay the remaining balance, Wenberg once again interceded.

"Is that all the money you have?" Wenberg asked. "Wait, sir. Give her back her cash and put it all on my card. Give it back."

Afterward, with cameras in tow, "What Would You Do?" anchor John Quinones asked Wenberg why she felt so compelled to help.

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