Last fall, Mary Brown and her husband filed a petition of bankruptcy seeking relief for some $55,000 in debts the couple had run up when they suffered a reversal of fortune in their auto repair business. Like so many Americans who have experienced small business failures during these difficult times, Mary could no longer earn enough money in her business to keep up with her bills and she needed a way out.
The thing is, among the debts listed in the bankruptcy filing are $4500 worth of medical bills—obligations that, presumably, would have largely been paid had Mary chosen to purchase health insurance, something she will be required to do come 2014 when the insurance mandate of the healthcare reform law kicks in.
Almost half of the medical debt run up by the Browns is owed to Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Florida. A spokesperson for the hospital had this say about their experience with the Browns and the many others who cannot pay their medical bills because they have chosen to remain uninsured.
“This is a very common problem. We cover $30 million in charity and uncompensated care every year,” “If it’s a bad debt, we have to absorb it.”
Of course, ‘absorbing it’ means that the loss will be passed along to the rest of us who do take responsibility for the medical obligations that, for almost all of us, are inevitable.