Bankruptcy for "Obamacare" Plaintiff
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Bankruptcy for "Obamacare" Plaintiff

March 21, 2012


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In an ironic turn of events, the lead plaintiff for one of the lawsuits headed to the Supreme Court to challenge the Obama Administration’s new healthcare bill (which has been dubbed "Obamacare" by opponents) filed for bankruptcy last fall, in party because of medical bills she and her husband were unable to pay.

Actually, Mary Brown and her husband filed their Chapter 7 bankruptcy case last fall, according to the L.A. Times. Because they were reportedly unable to pay $4,500 in medical bills, Brown and her husband were forced to seek the protection of the bankruptcy court—which is all perfectly legal.

What has supporters of Obama’s individual mandate cheering, though, is the logic of Brown’s case: Brown reportedly passionately argued against requiring all individuals to buy health insurance for themselves, insisting that she did not want or need it, and that the government had no place deciding who ought to have health coverage.

So Brown (who owns an auto repair shop) did not buy herself health insurance (which her lawyers confirmed as part of her lawsuit against the healthcare bill). When she and her husband needed medical care, though, Brown was reportedly unable to afford the bills, and so filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, which permits the federal government to forgive her debts.

At the time of her Chapter 7 filing, Brown listed as income weekly unemployment payments that she collected from the government.

And because Brown’s medical bills were discharged in her Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, it can be argued that taxpayers are essentially paying for her medical care. That’s because health providers account for people like Brown when they charge for their services. They know that they’ll have to write off a certain percentage of debts an uncollectible, so they build that price into the cost for medical care and the federal dollars used to cover costs of unpaid bills.

The plan passed into law by the Obama Administration may be controversial, but Mary Brown’s case (as well as the well-documented medical debt struggles of millions of other American) illustrates once more how important it is to remain open-minded about proposed solutions to the problem of medical bankruptcy.

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