Plaintiff in Landmark Anti-"Obamacare" suit bankrupt

The irony. It burns.


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.

I other words "how dare you try to mandate me to pay for health insurance, that's un-american and something only a socialist would do."

It's much better if I'm irresponsible then through my own stupidity or negligence saddle someone else with my debts. Now THAT'S American!

But note that her total debts are somewhere around $70K, most of which are related to her failed business, and her medical expenses are only $5K, and non-emergency related. So they didn't drive her into bankruptcy, and non-emergency medical providers are no different than anyone else -- they can provide a service and try to collect for it, but there are no guarantees that it will happen.

In other words, nobody was compelled to provide her care, and she's ripping them off no more than all her other creditors, and no more than anyone else who's ever declared bankruptcy.

Malor wrote:
But note that her total debts are somewhere around $70K, most of which are related to her failed business, and her medical expenses are only $5K, and non-emergency related. So they didn't drive her into bankruptcy, and non-emergency medical providers are no different than anyone else -- they can provide a service and try to collect for it, but there are no guarantees that it will happen.

In other words, nobody was compelled to provide her care, and she's ripping them off no more than all her other creditors, and no more than anyone else who's ever declared bankruptcy.

Yet, everyone else that uses the same medical providers as the freeloaders have to pick up the tab. They get their service free, and everyone else pays more than if everyone was opted into the system. So as their business was failing, and they knew they had no money, they still showed up to get taken care of.

I presume most of their debt would be to banks and others that willingly risked doing business with them. The hospital took them in regardless of risk.

But that's true of all businesses. Medical providers are nothing special in this regard. You pay more at Best Buy because other people steal from them. You pay more at Chevron because of drive-offs. And you pay more for some medical care because some people don't pay.

The spot where this breaks down is emergency rooms, because they are legally required to treat anyone, regardless of ability to pay. But none of this lady's debts are, from what I saw, to emergency rooms. They appeared to be three or four mid-sized debts for optional treatments of one sort or another, quite serviceable as normal debt on a decent income.

Malor wrote:
But that's true of all businesses. Medical providers are nothing special in this regard. You pay more at Best Buy because other people steal from them. You pay more at Chevron because of drive-offs. And you pay more for some medical care because some people don't pay.

The spot where this breaks down is emergency rooms, because they are legally required to treat anyone, regardless of ability to pay. But none of this lady's debts are, from what I saw, to emergency rooms. They appeared to be three or four mid-sized debts for optional treatments of one sort or another, quite serviceable as normal debt on a decent income.

That's a valid point but a Best Buy or Chevron doesn't have $30M annually in shoplifting or drive offs in one location. This is just one hospital. There's no way a retail establishment would survive with that kind of loss.

What I find both amusing and frustrating is the ones that scream about "getting the government out of their lives" and "ending entitlements" have absolutely no problem stepping up to the front of the line for a handout.

Not to mention what these failed business icons cost us annually.

Wow, that article is just ... well, ridiculous.

First, her bills might have been taken care of if she had insurance, depending on her coverage. However, insurance isn't free as the writer seems to implicitly assume. Let's say that she did purchase insurance. That would be roughly $300-$400 a month for non-high-deductible insurance. If their cash flow went negative in 2009, let's do the math: $300 times 36 months = $10,800. So if she had purchased health insurance, her bills might have been paid ... but she'd be even further into debt, and the insurance company would be getting screwed instead of the hospital.

The writer also makes the implicit assumptiom that personal responsibility means buying insurance. He's wrong. Personal responsibility means taking responsibility for your own actions, and dealing with the consequences. That might take the form of buying insurance, or it might take the form of savings, or it might take the form of debt that gets repaid - but the real issue here is the legal authority to abrogate responsibility and foist your debts onto others, not the failure to purchase insurance. There'd be no story if she paid her bills, and there'd be no story if she was actually held responsible for her actions.

The actual reason other people are paying for her healthcare - bankruptcy law - is barely mentioned and completely undiscussed. This is key, because what the writer is arguing for seeks to expand the payment of bills by others. In other words, the writer is using this example to argue for more of the same as a solution to her problem. In fact, that won't help at all - it'll just make the problem worse as more people assume that it is the responsibility of other people to pay their bills.

Yes but maybe the medical conditions have cost them worse than the amount it took to deal with them. If they are missing days or weeks of work because of a medical condition that they are putting off treatment for because they do not want to purchase health insurance, it could have ruined their business as well.

Everyone can play the "let's make assumptions that suit our perspective" game.

I support Obamacare as a lesser evil and I've seen this link pop up in other places today, and I say give up on this one. Maybe if it was the majority of her debt, but $4500 is not enough to make a point.

Maybe if it was the majority of her debt, but $4500 is not enough to make a point.

The point isn't what percentage of the debt it was or whether it caused her to go bankrupt. The point is that they incurred $4500 worth of medical expenses that they cannot and will not pay that will be assumed by the collective.

fangblackbone wrote:
Maybe if it was the majority of her debt, but $4500 is not enough to make a point.

The point isn't what percentage of the debt it was or whether it caused her to go bankrupt. The point is that they incurred $4500 worth of medical expenses that they cannot and will not pay that will be assumed by the collective.

I see that point, but it is fairly easy to get your medical bills well into that range even with insurance thanks to coinsurance and copays, and even easier with a high deductible plan. I don't think there is anything in Obamacare that prevents you from easily hitting that out of pocket amount in a year.

PoderOmega wrote:
fangblackbone wrote:
Maybe if it was the majority of her debt, but $4500 is not enough to make a point.

The point isn't what percentage of the debt it was or whether it caused her to go bankrupt. The point is that they incurred $4500 worth of medical expenses that they cannot and will not pay that will be assumed by the collective.

I see that point, but it is fairly easy to get your medical bills well into that range even with insurance thanks to coinsurance and copays, and even easier with a high deductible plan. I don't think there is anything in Obamacare that prevents you from easily hitting that out of pocket amount in a year.

This has nothing to do with Obamacare. This has to do with someone suing because they don't want socialized health care and then having their own bills paid for by the collective.

Guys, this were private medical providers, and there's no evidence that 'the collective' paid for anything, any more than the 'collective' pays for shoplifting at Best Buy or drive-offs at Chevron.

As far as I can tell, you are no more on the hook for her $4,500 in medical expenses than you are for the $70K in other bills she can't pay.

Malor wrote:
Guys, this were private medical providers, and there's no evidence that 'the collective' paid for anything, any more than the 'collective' pays for shoplifting at Best Buy or drive-offs at Chevron.

As far as I can tell, you are no more on the hook for her $4,500 in medical expenses than you are for the $70K in other bills she can't pay.

Come on, they explain it in the article. Customers of Best Buy pay for Best Buy's shoplifting because they raise prices. Customers of gas stations pay for drive offs. Customers of health insurance (read: US) pay for unpaid bills. It's not like this is going to come out of the CEO's pocket here, they'll just raise prices.

But there's nothing different and special here. These debts are just like all the rest of her debts.

One big difference is that if I shoplifted $4500 worth of stuff from Best Buy, I'd go to jail.

Malor wrote:
But there's nothing different and special here. These debts are just like all the rest of her debts.

The difference here is the person involved. Are you not reading the thread?

If you buy a $4,500 TV on credit from Best Buy, and declare bankruptcy, you are not going to jail. She didn't shoplift, she declared bankruptcy. Her medical debts weren't that high, and would have been easily serviceable; it's the other debts that sunk her.

And beating up anyone for going bankrupt in this economy is ridiculously partisan. You want her to be a villain, so you apply unreasonable expectations to her that you would never apply to anyone else.

And if you are the named person in a national lawsuit to make shoplifting a felony punishable by death, you had better not walk out of Best Buy with a $4500 television you didn't pay for.


You want her to be a villain, so you apply unreasonable expectations to her that you would never apply to anyone else.

I believe to the contrary that Paleo and others (including me) have argued that *everyone* should have health insurance. There are good economic reasons to do that, in the interest of reducing costs for everyone.

Malor wrote:
If you buy a $4,500 TV on credit from Best Buy, and declare bankruptcy, you are not going to jail. She didn't shoplift, she declared bankruptcy. Her medical debts weren't that high, and would have been easily serviceable; it's the other debts that sunk her.

I'd argue that medical costs are not the same as normal debt. For one, Best Buy and the rest of her creditors willingly loaned money to her and assumed the risk.

Hospitals don't turn away patients, they just get stuck suing later, and passing the costs on. I think this is an excellent example to highlight the differences in our philosophy. I don't think the general public will think that a society where you have hospitals for the rich is one they want to live in. And it appears that even people that think they do, don't.

At the end of they day, they have defaulted on their hospital bills. Does it matter to the hospital why they filed bankruptcy? Does it matter to the people in that care area if a failed business ultimately is responsible?

Defaults and discharges of medical debts via bankruptcy have inflated healthcare costs tremendously as we all then must pay, right?

Also, in bankruptcy, assets like the TV can be taken back/sold to cover debts. It doesn't work that way with healthcare.

The whole debate over ACA is totally pointless anyway. Healthcare is already socialized, as Jayhawker pointed out. No one is getting turned away from the ER because they can't cover their bills, we are already paying for their treatment in higher costs.

Kraint wrote:

The whole debate over ACA is totally pointless anyway. Healthcare is already socialized, as Jayhawker pointed out. No one is getting turned away from the ER because they can't cover their bills, we are already paying for their treatment in higher costs.

Well I guess emergency healthcare is socialized, if you consider something that cannot be refused as "socialized".

Well, sadly it is not. We all end up paying out the butt. It is privatized welfare, more accurately. Those of us who pay, absorb the costs of those who cannot par, or in this case will not pay. It will always be that way. What a universal system or individual mandate seeks to do, arguably is to get effectively everyone paying into the system to mitigate those costs. That is one way, not necessarily the best, to achieve that goal.

We could also reclassify medical debts along the lines of mortgage debt or federal student loans, all but guaranteeing that they get paid.

We have this strange chimera that defies classification. We have welfare medical care-Medicaid, large Federal Care for the Elderly and some children-Medicare, we have for profit and non-profit private insurance. We then get to the nearly inumerable rates, fee scales based on factors few of us understand. Just one example. On my insurance, Flonase nasal inhalers are 10 bucks to be, on my Girlfriend's insurance it is 40 bucks. But under my plan birth control pills are 30 out of pocket for generics, but on hers it is 10 bucks.

While a hospital or physician cannot refuse you care, they certainly can refuse to bill your insurance, or refuse a contract with a particular provider as I found out this week as I tried to find a new dentist. Where is that toll, or my lost time factored in? We treat healthcare, physicians like shopping for a car, patients as commodities. That is f*cked up.

KingGorilla wrote:
Well, sadly it is not. We all end up paying out the butt.

Even when it's covered by your and the guy who caused the accident's insurance, they still hound you and report you to credit agencies. Super PITA.

PoderOmega wrote:
Well I guess emergency healthcare is socialized, if you consider something that cannot be refused as "socialized".

And yet ironically, it's "socialized" by mission statements from the religious organizations these guys claim to be so close to.

The Franciscan order, OSF, Catholic Health.....all have mission statements that require care via "socialized" medicine.

The disconnect makes my head asplode.